Ashkenazi lands in Egypt in first Foreign Minister visit in 13 years
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Ashkenazi lands in Egypt in first Foreign Minister visit in 13 years

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Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi landed in Cairo on Sunday morning, making him the first to do so in 13 years.

Ashkenazi’s visit comes as Egypt advances a formal, long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas following the 11-day exchange of fire that ended on May 21 with mediation from Cairo.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry invited Ashkenazi to discuss the ceasefire, as well as bilateral ties between their countries.

“Thank you for your invitation,” Ashkenazi tweeted to Shoukri upon his arrival in Egypt. “During the visit we will hold a number of meetings in which we will discuss bilateral maters, strengthening economic and trade ties, and deepen the arrangements with Gaza and rehabilitating the [Gaza] Strip with international enforcement.”

Two IDF soldiers are believed to be held by Hamas since in 2014 Gaza war – Lt. Hadar Goldin and St. Sgt. Oron Shaul – as well two civilians — Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.

Simultaneously to Ashkenazi’s Cairo trip, the head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service (GIS), Abbas Kamel, arrived in Israel for meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen and National Security Council head Meir Ben-Shabbat.

Kamel is expected to visit the Gaza Strip in the coming days as part of Cairo’s ongoing efforts to maintain the Israel-Hamas ceasefire, Egyptian sources said on Saturday.

Kamel is also scheduled to visit Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and senior PA officials concerning Egypt’s initiative to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the 11-day war, the Egyptian sources told the New Arab news website.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing with Israel for additional talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions on ways of maintaining the ceasefire. It was the third visit of its kind to the Gaza Strip by Egyptian intelligence officials since the end of the fighting.

The Egyptian security delegation was headed by Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khaleq, who holds the Palestinian portfolio in the GIS.

The sources claimed that the delegation relayed a message from Israel to Hamas “stop provoking Israeli officials.”

The Egyptians have also invited leaders of the Palestinian factions to Cairo for talks related to the ceasefire and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

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