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Palestinian officials arrive in Egypt for talks ahead of planned meeting

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GAZA/CAIRO -Palestinian leaders, including Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and a delegation from President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for separate talks with Egyptian officials that aim to reinforce a ceasefire with Israel.

Haniyeh’s visit came in response to a special invitation from Cairo, in advance of a broader meeting of Palestinian factions that could begin as early as next week, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said.

Jibril Rajoub, a senior figure from Abbas’s Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was also expected to meet Egyptian officials, Palestinian and Egyptian sources said. Abbas has been invited to Egypt.

The Palestinian and Egyptian sources did not say whether the delegations from the rival Palestinian groups would meet each other.

Egypt has played a major role in the brokering of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group which rules Gaza, after 11 days of conflict erupted on May 10.

More than 250 Palestinians were killed in hundreds of Israeli air strikes on Gaza during that conflict. Rockets fired by Gaza militants killed 13 people in Israel.

Haniyeh and Egyptian officials will discuss cementing the truce with Israel as well as reconstruction plans for Gaza, Qassem said. Egypt has said it will allocate $500 million for the reconstruction.

Egypt has tried in the past to foster cooperation between Palestinian factions, which it sees as important for wider efforts to promote peace in the region.

Hamas seized Gaza from the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 2007 and the two factions have been in a power struggle ever since.

During a meeting of his cabinet in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said he hopes Cairo’s mediation will “close the page on (internal) division (and) help our people in Gaza … in a way that enhances our national unity.”

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