Egypt outraged by Gaza rocket launch amid truce mediation efforts

Rocket attacks on Israel during Egyptian mediators' visit to Gaza was a "personal affront, and worse, put their lives in danger," Palestinian official says

The border fence with Egypt in Eilat in southern Israel, Oct. 18, 2017. Photo by Yaniv Nadav/Flash90.
The border fence with Egypt in Eilat in southern Israel, Oct. 18, 2017. Photo by Yaniv Nadav/Flash90.

Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel has called off a planned visit to the Gaza Strip, Ramallah and Israel, officially citing a scheduling conflict, but commentators surmised that the cancellation may be a response to rocket attacks launched from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday.

Kamel’s visit was meant to advance Egyptian efforts to mediate a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, whose clashes along the Israel-Gaza border have intensified in recent weeks, culminating with Wednesday’s Grad rocket strike on a Beersheba home.

An Egyptian intelligence and diplomatic delegation that had arrived in Gaza to prepare the groundwork for Kamel’s intended visit, initially planned for Thursday, left the Strip on Wednesday before setting a new date for Kamel’s shuttle diplomacy mission.

A member of the Egyptian delegation told Israel Hayom that the official reason for postponing Kamel’s mission was the fact that he was accompanying Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on his trip to Russia, which was taking longer than planned.

But a senior Palestinian official told Israel Hayom that the Egyptians were surprised by the rocket fire and didn’t mince words in admonishing the leaders of Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions in Gaza, with whom they met Wednesday morning, shortly after the rockets were launched at Israel.

No Palestinian group has claimed responsibility for the rocket fire and several hours after it occurred, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees issued a joint statement saying: “We appreciate the Egyptian efforts to secure the demands of our people, and oppose any attempts to sabotage these efforts – including the rocket fire at Israel.”

According to another Palestinian official, the statement was issued at Egypt’s demand. “They viewed the rocket launch at Israel during their visit in Gaza as a personal affront, and worse, as putting their lives in danger,” the official said.

After the rocket fire, Israel carried out airstrikes across Gaza, and members of the Egyptian delegation in Gaza City at the time heard and also felt the shockwaves caused by the Israeli bombs.

Palestinian media outlets reported that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to depart for Jordan this weekend, where he will meet Jordanian King Abdullah and other senior Jordanian officials.

A senior Jordanian official told Israel Hayom this week that Abbas would likely hear a message similar to the one he heard from the Egyptians, namely that he should lift the economic sanctions he is imposing on the population in Gaza.

“Abbas needs to understand he cannot use the population in Gaza as a bargaining chip against Hamas, Israel or Egypt. He has to allow all the proceedings to be exhausted, to facilitate an arrangement and improve the lives in Gaza, which is collapsing under a dire humanitarian crisis,” he said.

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