News Analysis: Gaza Ceasefire Promotes Egypt’s Regional Role

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 The success of Egypt’s new leadership in reaching an “extendable” 72-hour humanitarian truce between the Israelis and the Gaza-ruling Hamas promotes the North African country’s role in the region, analysts said.

Egypt has managed to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the armed Islamist resistance movement that started early on Tuesday, after the almost-month long Israeli offensive against the restive Gaza Strip left more than 1,850 Palestinians killed, over 9,550 wounded. Meanwhile, 64 Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed.

Late on Wednesday, Egypt’s State TV reported that Israel agreed to extend the ongoing truce “with neither conditions nor time limit.”

Egypt received Palestinian and Israeli delegations in the capital Cairo after Hamas initially rejected the Egyptian ceasefire initiative proposed in mid-July when the number of Palestinian victims did not exceed 200. Israel has recently refused to send a delegation for talks in Cairo but it finally did on Tuesday.

“The Egyptian initiative and its brokered negotiations over the past 48 hours showed Egypt’s success in bringing the conflicting parties to Cairo and reach a ceasefire on the ground,” Tarek Fahmy, political science professor and expert at the National Center for Middle East Studies, said.

The expert noted that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad influential Palestinian groups sent extra members on Tuesday, who were stuck in Gaza, to join the talks in Cairo.

“The discussion sessions on the Palestinian side were positive, ” Fahmy said, noting the new Palestinian negotiators are “high- profile experts and technicians.”

Cairo has lately been the destination of United States, European and Asian diplomats until the 72-hour “extendable” humanitarian truce was reached. The Egyptian leadership is currently intensifying communications and talks to reach a permanent truce between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

“Egypt and the United States are working together in this regard, and there are positive indications that a long-term truce could be reached,” the professor added.

Political expert and former diplomat Hani Khallaf said that Egypt’s initiative and intensive mediation are only motivated by its concern on its own national security.

“The mediation role Egypt is playing is a necessary national duty to secure its eastern borders with Israel and Hamas-ruled Gaza,” the former assistant foreign minister said.

Khallaf, however, argued that a greater regional role is manifested when a country like Egypt mediates in issues far from its borders.

“We can say Egypt ‘started’ to restore its regional influence, but a greater role would be achieved when Egypt works on issues in Iraq, and mediates better ties between Morocco and Algeria,” he said.

In-mid July, Egypt proposed an immediate ceasefire initiative between Israel and Hamas, but it was rejected by Hamas that demanded a comprehensive solution including lifting the Israeli seven-year-long blockade on Gaza.

“If Egypt’s role had been influential enough, both parties would have approved the initiative on the spot,” Khallaf lamented, adding that Egypt’s success to reach the ongoing ceasefire enhances its national security in the first place and its regional role next.

The ex-diplomat believes that both parties earnestly considered Egypt’s initiative “when they were exhausted and ran out of warring energy.”

In 2012, Egypt brokered a truce between Hamas and Israel during the one-year reign of former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi who was ousted by the military last year.

“Egypt’s success in reaching a temporary ceasefire enhances its regional role,” Gabry told Xinhua, noting it is the first success the country achieves under the leadership of newly elected President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, who carried out Morsi’s ouster backed by mass protests.

“If Egypt succeeds in turning the 72-hour truce into a permanent one, it will reaffirm the country’s restoration to its usual regional influence,” the strategic expert said.

Source: Xinhua