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Egypt wants West Bank violence quelled ahead of Ramadan

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Egypt has stepped up mediation between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to tamp down violence in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank and prevent its spread to the Gaza Strip ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Cairo hosted leaders from Gaza’s ruling Hamas Islamist militant group and from the smaller, allied Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) group this week, according to officials.

Talks with Israeli representatives were held earlier, they said.

West Bank violence, which surged last year as Israel intensified raids following a series of lethal Palestinian street attacks in Israeli cities, has picked up pace since a hard-right Israeli government was sworn in on December 29.

Two Egyptian officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Cairo believed the situation could further spiral out of control, especially given Palestinian sensitivities about Israeli control of access to Jerusalem during Ramadan, which begins in late March.

Egypt wanted the United States to appeal to Israel to help constrain an escalation of violence, the officials said.

Egypt, for its part, was appealing to the PIJ, which spurns direct contact with Israel.

“More than ever, the Egyptians are worried of a possible new armed confrontation in 2023 because they realise it would be hard to restrain actions by some ministers of the new extremist government in Israel,” a Palestinian official told Reuters.

“Egypt understands that if things blow up in the West Bank it will ignite an explosion in Gaza too,” the Palestinian official said.

Israeli officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Israel last fought a 56-hour war in Gaza in August 2022 against PIJ, and the year before against Hamas.

The two groups are sworn to Israel’s destruction but have been observing a de facto extended truce with it, brokered by neighbouring Egypt in 2021.

PIJ spokesman Daoud Shehab accused Israel of trying to change the “status quo” in the West Bank and Jerusalem, a reference to the new government’s plan to expand Jewish settlements and what Palestinians see as Jewish encroachment on a contested site in the holy city that is sacred to both faiths.

Shehab said the group told Egypt “no one can restrain” themselves if “Israeli provocations … continue during Ramadan”.

Australian Associated Press

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Article source: Canberra Times
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2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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