update deskIsrael at War

Israeli spy chief visits Cairo for talks on securing Egypt-Gaza border

Ronen Bar met with his Egyptian counterpart to discuss preventing Hamas rearming via the Philadelphi Corridor.

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza in January 2019. Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Shutterstock.
The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza in January 2019. Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Shutterstock.

Israel Security Agency director Ronen Bar visited Cairo on Monday to discuss the Gaza war effort with the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel, Axios reported.

According to two Israeli sources, the security situation along the Philadelphi Corridor was a major focus of the talks, in particular how Cairo and Jerusalem can work together to prevent weapons smuggling across the 14 kilometer (9 mile) buffer running the length of the Gaza-Egypt border to ensure that Hamas is not allowed to rearm.

Cairo opposes Israeli military control over the Philadelphi Corridor. Despite Egypt’s denial of the existence of smuggling tunnels beneath it, security officials believe that the Philadelphi Corridor serves as the primary route for weapons bound for Hamas.

Israeli officials have warned they may launch military operations along the border to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Strip through cross-border tunnels. There are also concerns that Hamas may move Israeli hostages into the Sinai.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month regarding securing the Gaza-Egypt border that “if we end the war without this, we will not be able to know that we have isolated Gaza. There are several options for how to close it. We have not yet made a decision.”

Furthermore, Bar and Kamel discussed potential post-war scenarios in the Gaza Strip. Axios reported on Sunday about a secret meeting recently held in Riyadh in which senior Arab security officials discussed post-war governance in Gaza, including Kamel and officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Bar did not discuss the 136 hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza, having participated in hostage release negotiations in Paris on Sunday with the Egyptian spy chief. Also in Paris for the meeting were Mossad chief David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and CIA Director William Burns.

According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, “The meeting was defined as constructive,” though “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”

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