Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hosted Egypt’s intelligence chief and sent Israel’s foreign minister to Cairo on Sunday, amid efforts to build on a ceasefire reached between Hamas and Israel a week ago that ended the worst violence in years.
Cairo helped broker the truce that has held since May 21, a diplomatic success that thrust it into the spotlight, and is working with Washington and other regional partners to expand it into a more permanent ceasefire.
The Israeli premier noted that his meeting with Abbas Kamel in Jerusalem touched on regional security issues and ways to prevent Hamas, the Islamist militant group that rules Gaza, from siphoning off civilian aid to strengthen its capabilities.
Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars from Israeli strikes in Gaza, where medical officials said 248 people perished during eleven days of fighting. Israel is also repairing damage caused by Palestinian rockets and missiles, which claimed 13 lives in Israel.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi’s trip to Cairo was the first such visit in 13 years. Ashkenazi said he would discuss with Egyptian counterparts “establishing a permanent ceasefire with Hamas,” along with ways to help rebuild Gaza.
On Saturday, Egypt said Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry would receive Ashkenazi, but did not elaborate on the talks.
Both Netanyahu and Ashkenazi said a key aim for Israel was to secure the return of 2 Israeli civilians and the remains of 2 soldiers held for years in Gaza. Hamas has refused to hand them over.