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The New Arab

Egypt offers Hamas electricity in exchange for 17 'terror suspects'

Israel's cabinet agreed to reduce power supplies to Gaza on Monday [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 13 June, 2017

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Cairo attempts to coax Hamas into handing over 'terror suspects' with an offer of much-needed power after Israel cuts supply at the behest of the Palestinian Authority.

Egypt reportedly offered Hamas greater freedom at the Gaza border and much-needed supplies of electricity in exchange the group agreeing to several security demands, Arab media reported on Tuesday.

The offer comes amid severe power restrictions placed upon Gaza by Israel at the behest of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Egypt's list of demands included that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terror charges, the end of weapons smuggling into Sinai, greater security at the border and intelligence on tunnel movements into Gaza, Asharq al-Awsat reported.

The offer was reportedly passed to Hamas' Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar during his nine-day trip to Cairo.

Israel's government decided to drastically cut the amount of power supplied to Gaza, in line with PA President Mahmoud Abbas' plan to step up pressure on Hamas, who are bitter rivals of his Fatah faction.

Under current supply levels, Gaza has only four to six hours of power a day, significantly impairing the medical services in the Mediterranean coastal strip.

Despite the Egyptian offer, it is unclear whether Cairo will be able to stem Gaza's power crisis. When functioning, Egyptian power lines provided 25 megawatts - a mere 6.25 percent of the amount needed by the territory per day.

Israel's army says Egypt has not been providing power to Gaza recently due to power to power line malfunctions. This has made Israel the Gaza Strip's sole source of power.

Relations between Egypt and Hamas have shared a rocky relationship since the overthrow of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammad Morsi in 2013.

In recent years, delegations from Hamas have travelled to Cairo in the hope of easing relations with little success. The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza remains closed and is only opened periodically.

Cairo accuses Hamas of supporting Islamic State group militants in the restive Sinai region.

Hamas, meanwhile, has been keen to convince Egypt that it is a reliable partner by deploying extra troops at the Rafah crossing.

Last month, the group also released a policy document that dropped its long standing association with the Muslim Brotherhood - a group proscribed as a terror organisation by Egypt.

Desppite these gestures, the handing over of terror suspects to Cairo by Hamas is a move that is unprecedented.

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