JERUSALEM, Israel – Reconciliation talks between rival Palestinian factions continued Monday as delegations from the Palestinian Authority's Ramallah-based Fatah faction met with representatives of Hamas, the Palestinian terror group ruling the Gaza Strip, in Cairo. This latest attempt to unite Palestinian factions began a little over a week ago.
Following those meetings, an Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo to meet with senior Intelligence officials acting as intermediaries between Fatah and Hamas, YNet reported, quoting Arabic-language media sources, including the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed. It's not the first time Egypt has assumed the role of mediator, albeit unsuccessfully.
According to the report, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told cabinet ministers he hopes mediating unity talks will ultimately pave the way to establishing peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The talks followed last week's visit to the Gaza Strip by P.A. Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. Surrounded by body guards, Hamdallah said unity is the only way to achieve Palestinian statehood.
While hosting the talks, Egypt widened the buffer zone along the Gaza border. According to an Associated Press report, Egyptian forces bulldozed 140 homes and cleared another 200 acres in continuing efforts to stop weapons smuggling from Gaza to terror cells embedded in the Sinai Peninsula.
The six-mile-long, 4,900-foot-wide buffer zone apparently isn't wide enough to stem the flow of weapons. It's not a new problem. For years, Hamas smuggling tunnels have been used to transport weapons and terrorists and a variety of other contraband in and out of Gaza. Israel and Egypt have destroyed many of these tunnels, but it's yet to stop Hamas from building them.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders vow never to disarm or dismantle its "military" wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade, while insisting that "unity" include integrating its security forces with the P.A.'s and ending coordination with Israel.
And incitement continues unabated.
P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction says "dying for Allah 'will create the state of Palestine,'" the Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reported.
In a Facebook post earlier this month, Fatah wrote, "from the sea of the blood of the martyrs (shahids), we will create the state of Palestine. A separate post by its Nablus branch called Palestinian blood "the gunpowder of the revolution."
"The Palestinian blood is not oil or water, but rather the salt of the earth and the gunpowder of the revolution," the FB post read.
Meanwhile, a PMW report may have finally convinced the Belgian Foreign Ministry to drop its support of a P.A. school after it changed its name to the Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School. Mughrabi is best known for her part in the 1978 Coastal Road massacre that murdered 38 Israelis, including 13 children, and wounded another 71.
Belgium officials say they were unaware of the name change.
"The Belgian government has supported the construction of a school building in the south of Hebron in 2012-2013. When the school building was handed over to the local community in 2013 it was called Beit Awwa Basic Girls School. This name was later changed to the Dalal Mughrabi Elementary School. The Belgian government was unaware of this name change."
"The Belgian government unequivocally condemns the glorification of terrorist attacks. Belgium will not allow itself to be associated with the names of terrorists in any way. Our country has immediately raised this issue with the Palestinian Authority and is awaiting a formal response."
According to the report, Israeli media reported the name change in 2014, but PMW says its report convinced Belgium authorities to withhold some 3.3 million euros slated for the construction of Palestinian Authority schools.