Egypt has offered to send “a strong delegation” to Israel in order to seek Awawdah’s release in an effort to repair relations with the PIJ following Israel’s attack.
Egyptian mediators informed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement on Friday, four hours before Israel started bombing the Gaza Strip, that Israel was not seeking an escalation and would react “positively” to a request to free two PIJ members from prison. The movement was apparently informed that this would be announced as a bargaining victory at an Israeli cabinet meeting scheduled for the following day.
According to sources close to the PIJ, Brigadier Ahmed Abdul Khaliq, the Egyptian mediator, delivered the guarantees to a senior member of the PIJ’s political bureau around midday on Friday local time, four hours and twenty minutes before the first Israeli air attack hit the Gaza Strip.
Our reporter can confirm that there is currently “considerable anger” directed at Egyptian intelligence services from the PIJ over the part played by Cairo in the hours before Israel launched its most recent bombing campaign. This is revealed in the first in-depth account of the negotiations that preceded Israel’s latest offensive on Gaza.
According to a senior Palestinian source close to the PIJ, “[The PIJ] believe they have been misled by the Egyptians and that they were part of the plot – to make them feel peaceful and secure shortly before the air strikes took place.”
“Since of the Egyptians’ participation in mediating, there is a lot of resentment and discontent inside Islamic Jihad because they feel the Egyptians misled them with information and indications immediately before the airstrikes. The Islamic Jihad relaxed as a result of this knowledge and was unprepared for the airstrikes.”
According to sources close to the PIJ, Abdul Khaliq misinformed Khaled al-Batsh, a prominent member of the PIJ’s political bureau, that an indirect discussion had “broken through.”
According to reports, Israeli intelligence officers communicated the following information to the PIJ via Egyptian intelligence: “This escalation needs to stop, please. Give us till Sunday, and we’ll exert pressure on the political authorities in Israel to comply.”
Why the Conflict Started?
When Israeli soldiers detained Bassam al-Saadi, a top PIJ commander, in the West Bank’s occupied territory early last week, tensions grew.
Following an Israeli operation in the city of Jenin during which a Palestinian youngster was slain, Saadi was taken into custody.
“There was some debate in Gaza about whether to strike back after the Sheikh [Saadi] was detained. There was some outrage because of the degrading manner in which he was arrested. The Egyptians attempted to defuse the situation right away, ” our reporter was informed by a source with knowledge of the talks.
“The brigadier was the one acting in that way. He sent the message that escalation was not something the Shin Bet [Israel’s internal intelligence agency] was interested in.”
A source close to the PIJ claims that the movement requested videotaped guarantees of Saadi’s physical safety from Egyptian intelligence and eventually secured them. This was viewed favorably, according to the PIJ source.
The PIJ then sought the release of Khalil Awawdah, a PIJ prisoner who has been fasting for more than 150 days in an effort to raise attention to his arrest by Israel without indictment or trial, as well as Saadi.
According to information provided to the PIJ by Egyptian intelligence, Shin Bet was “handling favorably” the requests and was eager to defuse tensions. Additionally, they claimed to be urging the Israeli government to order the release of the two individuals.