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Hamas leader in brief Egypt visit ahead of Gaza protests over Jerusalem embassy move

File - In this Friday, Dec. 12, 2014 file photo, Palestinian top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh greets supporters during a rally to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Hamas militant group.
AP Photo/Adel Hana, File
Egypt could ease border restrictions, offer economic relief if Gaza protesters don't try to breach fence

The head of Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas paid a brief visit to Egypt Sunday, a day before major protests are expected in Gaza over Washington's controversial Jerusalem embassy move.

Ismail Haniya travelled early Sunday and met with the director of the Egyptian intelligence services Abbas Kamel to discuss the protests known as the "Great Return March", Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel Monday to protest as the US opens its embassy in Jerusalem.

The Israeli army said Saturday it would almost double the number of troops surrounding the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank to tackle what is expected to be widespread Palestinian protests against Monday's inauguration of the controversial new American embassy.

The army forecasts that there will be approximately 10,000 protesters across 17 different sites of confrontation along the border and has stationed 11 battalions to contain the unrest, a senior officer in the southern command told Haaretz newspaper on Friday.


Hamas leaders have voiced support in recent days for attempts to break the fence into Israel, despite the possibility of it leading to bloodshed.

Asked what he wanted to see from protests on Monday and Tuesday, Sinwar pointed out Israel has never specifically defined its borders.

"What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?"

Sinwar said he hoped Israel would not shoot at what he called "peaceful" protests.

Hayya, who travelled to Egypt with Hanya's delegation, said  Hamas had told the Egyptians "this march is peaceful and has popular support".

He said they considered the meeting a "good one that comes within the framework of mobilizing Arab and Islamic support".

Arab media have speculated that Egypt, one of only two Arab countries to have a peace treaty with Israel, could ease border restrictions with Gaza and offer economic relief in exchange for protesters not trying to breach the fence.

Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured.

The moving of the embassy, a campaign pledge by US President Donald Trump, has infuriated Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump will not attend the embassy opening Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will.

Haniya is expected to return to Gaza late Sunday ahead of the protests.


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