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Hamas leader in Cairo to discuss Gaza blockade: spokesman

Hamas

GAZA: The new chief of Palestinian Hamas Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo on Saturday to hold talks with senior Egyptian officials on his first such visit as leader, a Hamas spokesman said.

In the past few months Hamas has sought to mend relations with Egypt, which controls their one border crossing and has, under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, been highly wary of ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, ousted from power by Sisi after mass protests.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal territory that shares borders with Egypt and Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

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For much of the last decade, Egypt has joined Israel in enforcing a partial land, sea and air blockade of Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the talks with Egypt will focus on alleviating the blockade and mending a longstanding rift with rival group Fatah, headed by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials on the talks.

Haniyeh was elected Hamas leader in May. The group maintains a sizeable armed wing in Gaza since seizing the enclave from Fatah in 2007.

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Israel, which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and coordinates closely with it on security, is maintaining a close watch on discussions between Egypt and Hamas. Like the United States and the European Union, it regards Hamas as a terrorist group.

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