Egypt and Israel held high-level talks in both countries Sunday to shore up a fragile truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group and rebuild the Gaza Strip after a punishing 11-day war that left parts of the seaside enclave in ruins.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry received his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo on Sunday as part of Egypt's efforts to revive the Mideast peace process and to build on the cease-fire in Gaza, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.
It was the first public visit by an Israeli foreign minister to Egypt since 2008, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo said. It wrote that the two ministers would discuss topics including the cease-fire and the release of Israeli soldiers and citizens being held by Hamas.
We will discuss establishing a permanent ceasefire with #Hamas, a mechanism for providing humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of #Gaza with a pivotal role played by the intl. community, Ashkenazi tweeted upon arrival in Cairo.
Hamas is holding the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in a 2014 war. It also is holding two Israeli civilians who were captured after entering Gaza.
As part of the cease-fire efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Abbas Kamel, Egypt's intelligence chief, in Jerusalem. Netanyahu said he had raised the issue of returning the remains of soldiers and the two civilians as well as Israeli demands to prevent Hamas from gaining strength or diverting resources meant for the civilian population.
An Egyptian official said Kamel would also meet with Palestinian officials in the West Bank before heading to Gaza for talks with Hamas leaders. The intelligence agency, which is Egypt's equivalent of the CIA, usually handles Egypt's ties with Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza.
MENA said Kamel would convey a message from el-Sissi to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, affirming Egypt's full support to the Palestinian people.
During a visit to the region last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was seeking to bolster Abbas and weaken Hamas as part of the cease-fire efforts.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas' forces in 2007, leaving the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority in charge of administering autonomous zones in some 40% of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.