Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi landed in Cairo on Sunday for talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry, centering on the ceasefire with Hamas and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
Ashkenazi’s is the first formal visit to Egypt by an Israeli foreign minister since Tzipi Livni met with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2008.
The two foreign ministers will discuss the establishment of a permanent ceasefire with Hamas, as well as a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Ashkenazi said on Sunday. A temporary ceasefire, which Egypt helped to negotiate, went into effect on May 21 following 11 days of fighting between Israel and terrorist groups in Gaza.
However, he added, Israel remained “first and foremost” committed to securing the return of Israeli captives being held by Hamas in Gaza.
Ashkenazi’s remarks echoed those made on May 21 by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who told Israel’s Kan channel in an interview that the reconstruction of Gaza must be made conditional on the return of civilians and soldiers’ bodies being held by Hamas.
Hamas has held the bodies of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul since “Operation Protective Edge” in 2014, and is believed to also be holding two Israeli civilians: Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
Israel’s Walla news reported on Saturday that the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, was expected to visit Israel on Sunday. Kamel is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and senior members of Israel’s defense establishment, before heading to Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, according to the rerport. He is also expected to travel to Gaza to meet with leaders of Hamas.
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