In the shadow of tensions stemming from the conflict in the Gaza Strip in May (“Operation Shield and Arrow”), senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad officials convened in Cairo on Sunday for the first official meeting since the military campaign.
The terrorist groups were represented by their top leaders, Hamas Political Bureau Chairman Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah.
During the five-day conflict, Hamas refrained from intervening in support of Islamic Jihad after the latter’s top command in the Gaza Strip was targeted by the Israel Air Force, creating persistent tensions between the two terrorist groups.
The Israeli strikes on the Islamic Jihad leaders came against the backdrop of a rocket barrage fired by the terrorist group following the death of Khader Adnan on May 2.
The imprisoned Adnan, an Islamic Jihad operative from the Jenin area, died after an 86-day hunger strike. The terrorist group had threatened throughout Adnan’s hunger strike that it would hold Israel responsible for its member’s death.
In Cairo, Hamas sought to reassure Islamic Jihad that it remains committed to “resistance” against Israel, despite its limited involvement during the “Shield and Arrow” operation.
A joint press release stated, “The two sides discussed various national issues in light of the Zionist attacks on our people in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the harassment of prisoners, and discussed ways to strengthen and consolidate the strategic relationship between the two movements.”
The tensions also come against the backdrop of Iranian efforts to consolidate Tehran’s influence over Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah into a more united front against Israel known as the Jerusalem Axis.
In a separate development, Samir Mashharawi, the representative of Mohammed Dahlan, an influential figure and Fatah dissident who spends much of his time in Egypt, held discussions with the delegations. Recently, Dahlan’s associate called for unity among Palestinian factions to confront the Netanyahu government.
Mashharawi concluded the meetings, stating, “The Palestinian national issue is going through its most difficult phase, and we are facing a fascist right-wing government that has announced its plans and does not hide that [Israeli National Security Minister Itamar] Ben-Gvir, who sneaked into Al-Aqsa mosque as a thief, is its true face.”
Mashharawi was referring to Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount on May 21, a few days after Jerusalem Day celebrations of the city’s unification in the Six-Day War.
A Palestinian source said that Dahlan’s involvement in talks between Hamas and Islamic Jihad is “an internal political move that is mainly related to the situation in the Palestinian arena and it is of great concern to Ramallah [the Palestinian Authority].”
Dahlan, a high-level figure within Fatah, was the Palestinian Authority’s Gaza strongman when Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007. He had a falling out with President Mahmoud Abbas as he regained influence and was expelled from Fatah in 2011. He was later tried in absentia in Ramallah on charges of corruption.
Dahlan, who lives in the United Arab Emirates, says the charges are politically motivated.
Meanwhile, Egypt continues working to maintain calm in Gaza. Alongside the Cairo talks, Egyptian civilian delegations have visited the Strip to monitor reconstruction efforts.