Top Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri returns to Gaza for ‘negotiations’ with Israel
GAZA CITY – Anadolu Agency
Saleh al-Arouri, deputy leader of Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, returned to Gaza on Aug. 3 after eight years of exile.
According to a press release from the administration of the Rafah Border Crossing, an Arouri-led delegation including leading group members Mousa Abu Marzouk, Izzat al-Rishq and Hussam Badran crossed the border into the Gaza Strip.
The delegation was welcomed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and members of the group's political bureau.
Arouri has been in exile since 2010.
His return to Gaza has been interpreted in Israeli and Palestinian media as "relevant to negotiations through third parties for a long-term agreement between Hamas and Israel".
Israel's Haaretz newspaper wrote that the Tel Aviv administration was "hopeful" about the talks.
The Yediot Ahronot newspaper noted that Israel has given assurances through Egypt that Tel Aviv, which has allowed Arouri's entry into Gaza, would not target him with any attack.
Local media also reported that the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, has played an important role in the alleged Egypt-backed Hamas-Israeli talks.
On July 30, a Hamas delegation led by Arouri arrived in Cairo to discuss the latest developments in the Palestinian political arena with Egyptian officials.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said it included Marzouk, Rishq and Badran as well as Khalil al-Hayya and Rawhi Mushtaha.
Earlier July 30, al-Hayya and Mushtaha set out from the blockaded Gaza Strip for the Egyptian capital via the Rafah Border Crossing.
According to sources close to Hamas, the delegation has been in intensive negotiations with Egyptian intelligence in order to establish Palestinian national unity and a long-term ceasefire agreement between Israel and the resistance organizations in Gaza.
Meanwhile, the cancelation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned visit to Colombia is believed to be related to the "developments in Gaza”, according to Israeli media, which referred to speculation that he needs to be available due to the possibility that there might be a breakthrough in talks between the Tel Aviv administration and Palestinian sides.
The Haaretz newspaper reported that Israel's Security Cabinet is expected to meet on Aug. 5 to discuss a possible deal with Hamas.