Liberman secretly met with Qatari envoy to Gaza: report
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman two months ago, reportedly met with Qatar’s envoy to Gaza in Cyprus to discuss the return of the bodies of the captive Israeli soldiers and the coastal enclave’s deteriorating humanitarian situation, Channel 10 news reported on Thursday.
Liberman was said to have met with Muhammad al-Amadi on June 22 at Cyrpus’s Lanarca airport amid a trip to the region for a summit with the Cypriot and Greek defense ministers.
According to the Channel 10 report, al-Amadi offered a number of proposals regarding ongoing attempts at forging a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, solutions to the case of the Israeli captives as well as a pledge for around $350 million in humanitarian support for the Gaza Strip.
Whilst Israel has embraced Egyptian mediation efforts over other potential partners, it has sought to maintain Qatar’s involvement given its enthusiasm to pour funding into humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip.
Qatar is one of the largest donors to the strip and has funded a significant proportion of the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged in the 50-day summer war between Hamas and Israel in 2014 which displaced more than a quarter of Gaza's 1.7 million residents and left 100,000 homeless.
Revelations of the Qatari-Israel meeting come amid ongoing joint efforts by the United Nations and Egypt to carve out a mediation channel between Israel and Hamas in order bring to an end months of violence along the border and also ease conditions in the impoverished enclave.
Earlier on Thursday, the London-based Arabic-language Al-Hayat daily reported that the head of Egyptian intelligence, General Abbas Kamel, made a secret visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday to iron out details of a long-term truce. Kamel’s reported visit to Tel Aviv is the latest in a series of unusual diplomatic meetings between officials involved in the negotiations.
Meanwhile, two high-level delegations from Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad -- another Gaza terrorist faction -- are holding talks in Cairo with other representatives of smaller militant factions, according to Al-Hayat.
As the terms of the potential ceasefire undergo back-and-forth deliberation speculation has mounted over the details. Hezbollah-affiliated media network Al Mayadeen published a report on Thursday claiming that Qatar will play a large role in the arrangement, funding Hamas officials’ salaries as well as fuel for the strip.
In addition,the establishment of a direct shipping route between Gaza and Cyprus was also referenced. Hadashot TV reported that Liberman conditioned the building of the seaport on the condition that the two Israeli citizens and the bodies of the two IDF soldiers held by Hamas were returned.
The port which is expected to receive and ship goods to the strip would ease the pressure on Gaza’s almost two million residents who labor under restrictive Israeli and Egyptian blockades imposed since 2007 as well as daily blackouts, sky-high unemployment and limited access to drinking water.
Whilst Israel and Qatar have no formal relations, they have been coordinating on Gaza rehabilitation efforts for a number of years. In 2014 they established the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) in an effort to bring reconstruction materials considered potentially 'dual use' - having both civilian and military applications - into the blockaded enclave through an Israeli-controlled border crossing.
In this dimension, al-Amadi said that he had developed a cordial but pragmatic working relationship with his Israeli counterpart, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, who serves as the defense ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).
In February of this, Ambassador Mohammed al-Amadi revealed that he has visited Israel twenty times over the last four years.
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