AIDAN LEWIS and NIDAL AL-MUGHRABI
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met top officials in Cairo yesterday, during a Middle East tour aimed at shoring up a ceasefire that ended the worst fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants.
Egypt has long standing relations with both sides in the conflict and played a key role in brokering the Gaza ceasefire after 11 days of violence, in coordination with the United States.
In a brief visit, Blinken met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and intelligence head Abbas Kamel at the presidential palace.
The United States and Egypt are working together to let Israelis and Palestinians live in safety and security, Blinken said addressing U.S. embassy staff in Cairo.
“And we’ve had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, bringing it to a close, relatively quickly. And now, working closely together build something positive,” he said.
Blinken arrived in Egypt after stops in Jerusalem and Ramallah and is due to visit Jordan. On Tuesday, he pledged that the United States would provide new aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, including $5.5 million in disaster relief and nearly $33 million for the U.N. Palestinian aid agency there.
He also said the United States intended to ensure that Hamas, which controls Gaza and is listed by Washington as a terrorist organisation, did not benefit from humanitarian aid.
Yehya Al-Sinwar, the Hamas chief in Gaza, said the group welcomed Arab and international efforts to rebuild the enclave.
“We will ease and facilitate the task for everyone and we will make sure that the process will be transparent and fair and we will make sure that no penny goes to Hamas or Qassam (the Hamas armed wing),” Sinwar told a news conference.
“We have satisfactory sources of money for Hamas and Qassam. A major part of it from Iran and part in donations from Arabs, Muslims and liberals of the world who are sympathetic to our people and their rights,” he added.
Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has security contacts with Hamas, is likely to have a role in channeling aid, a senior U.S. State Department official said earlier.
During the fighting, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and its Sinai Peninsula in order to provide medical aid and evacuate the wounded.
It also sent a security delegation to Israel and Gaza to reinforce the ceasefire after it came into effect on Friday.