Did Egypt Sabotage Israel-Hamas Ceasefire? What We Know | NEWSWEEK

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Did Egypt Sabotage Israel-Hamas Ceasefire? What We Know | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by Brendan Cole Senior News Reporter for NEWSWEEK.

Update 05/23/24, 3:30 a.m. ET: This article has been updated with comment from Avi Melamed.

Egyptian intelligence secretly changed the terms of a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas that could have released Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, CNN reported, citing unnamed sources.

Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has raged for months, sparked by Hamas’ brutal rampage in southern Israel on October 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and at least 250 were taken hostage.

Amid calls for a ceasefire, international pressure has been building on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following Israel’s attacks on Gaza that as of Thursday had killed at least 35,000 people, according to the Hamas-controlled health authorities there.

Who Was Involved and What Was the Deal?

After months of deadlocked talks, Egyptian negotiators flew to Israel at the end of April to discuss the framework to allow the release of Israeli hostages in return for a pause in hostilities and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

CNN reported that senior Egyptian intelligence official Ahmed Abdel Khalek, who is a senior deputy to Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, reportedly told Hamas one thing and the Israelis another.

The news network said that more of the Palestinian group’s demands were added to the deal to get its approval without informing the other mediators, critically Israel.

One demand reportedly was Israel’s complete withdrawal from Gaza, although it is not clear if this was added to the agreement.

Hamas announced on May 6 that it had agreed to a ceasefire deal following a visit to Cairo, where mediation talks had been held with officials from Egypt and Qatar.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the framework was “extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel” amid optimism it seemed willing to accept fewer hostages, release more Palestinian prisoners and allow Palestinians in the southern part of Gaza to return to the north unrestricted.

However, the terms of the deal were not what the Qataris or Americans thought had been submitted to Hamas for a final review, according to CNN.

“While mediators making slight alterations in the back and forth of any agreement are a natural part of a mediated negotiation to get both sides to a compromise, the actions by Egyptian intelligence, which dealt with the core tenets of Israel’s offer, created an embarrassing situation for Egypt leading to the complete fracture of the negotiation process,” ex-Israeli intelligence official Avi Melamed told Newsweek.

CNN said it had obtained a Hamas document outlining the version of the deal they had agreed to which included a permanent ceasefire and a “sustainable calm” for the second phase of the three-stage deal.

Israel is reluctant to discuss an end to the war before Hamas has been defeated and the remaining hostages captured by the militant group on October 7 are released.

The alleged alterations made by Egyptian intelligence sparked anger among officials from the U.S., Qatar and Israel, with one source telling the network, “we were all duped,” while Washington’s mediator, CIA Director Bill Burns, was “angry and embarrassed” when he found out about the changes made to the deal.

“Israel was likely aware of Egypt’s actions and by choosing to avoid pointing the finger at Egypt and furthering the scandal, it clearly hoped to avoid embarrassing while continuing its partnership with Egypt and possibly even using the episode to negotiate the coordination surrounding the Rafah crossing,” Melamed said.

Newsweek has contacted the Egyptian government, the U.S. State Department and the Israeli prime minister’s office for comment.

How Has Egypt Reacted?

Any further negotiations are likely to see Egypt play a central role given its proximity to Hamas. But a high-level source in Egypt told the Daily News Egypt that allegations it scuttled ceasefire talks were “diversionary tactics” to avoid decisions being made and that Cairo was committed to facilitating peace.

“Egypt’s mediation role in the ceasefire and hostage release deal in Gaza came at the request and insistence of the parties involved,” the unnamed official said.

Meanwhile, a senior Egyptian source told CNN that Cairo was “surprised” at allegations that “insult the Egyptian efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.” Another unnamed source told Egypt Today that the sources CNN relied on were “not credible, and that they provided inaccurate and unsubstantiated information.”

“While Qatar has tried to use this situation to its advantage to reposition itself as the most viable mediator moving forward, the reality is that the shared borders between Egypt, Israel and Gaza will allow Egypt to recoup its role,” added Melamed.

Axios reported that U.S. National Security adviser Jake Sullivan told foreign ambassadors last week that Washington believes Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar withdrew from hostage talks to increasing pressure on Israel to end the war.

Did Egypt Sabotage Israel-Hamas Ceasefire? What We Know | Avi Melamed’s insights quoted in this article by Brendan Cole Senior News Reporter for NEWSWEEK.

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Avi Melamed
Avi Melamedhttps://insidethemiddle-east.com
Avi Melamed is an expert on current affairs in the Arab & Muslim World and their impact on Israel & the Middle East. A former Israeli Intelligence Official & Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Fluent in Arabic, English, and Hebrew, he has held high-risk Government, Senior Advisory, Intelligence & Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities & communities - often in very sensitive times - on behalf of Israeli Government agencies. He is the Founder & CEO of Inside the Middle East | Intelligence Perspectives - an apolitical non-partisan curriculum using intelligence methodology to examine the Middle East. As an Author, Educator, Expert, and Strategic Intelligence Analyst, Avi provides Intelligence Analysis, Briefings, and Geopolitical Tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policymakers, global media outlets, and a wide variety of international businesses, organizations, and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East Affairs.

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