Israel has returned its diplomatic staff to Egypt some eight months after its embassy’s closure, the Associated Press reported yesterday.
Whilst the Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the issue, airport officials anonymously informed reporters that Israeli Ambassador David Govrin flew back to Cairo last night with eight staff members. A large security motorcade escorted the diplomats to their offices in Giza.
Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, a member of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee who has been urging the return of the diplomats to Cairo, welcomed the move and expressed hope that the return of the embassy staff would “open a window for the expansion of the relations between the two countries in other fields, such as commerce and academia, which in recent years have almost completely disappeared.”
Govrin left the Egyptian capital at the end of 2016 over unspecified fears for his safety and, in February, Israel called for its entire diplomatic staff to return to Tel Aviv. All consular duties have since been carried out from Israel. The reopening of the embassy reportedly follows weeks of discussions on the implementation of new security measures.
The move is believed to have been prompted by closer cooperation between Israel and Egypt. A report released by Israeli daily Haaretz last week praised Egypt’s intervention in the Syrian crisis, crediting Cairo for restraining Iranian involvement, which served Israel’s national interests. Earlier this month, the Israeli Defence Ministry additionally announced that a new Israeli military training base dedicating to protecting Egypt’s borders is set to open in the Sinai region.
Unconfirmed reports last month also alleged that Egypt has also been acting as a mediator between Gaza Strip authority, Hamas, and Israel on a prisoner swap deal, which would see the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for video evidence that three Israeli soldiers held in Gaza are alive. Hamas has reportedly rejected the proposal calling for 55 Palestinians to be released and information on other prisoners.
Whilst Egypt has held numerous meetings with delegates from Hamas in recent months, it has maintained the Israeli blockade on Gaza; according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), as of July, the Egypt-Gaza border crossing has only been opened on 16 days since the start of 2017.