Amid Rapprochement with Iran, Egypt invites Hamas, Jihad leaders to Cairo

Amid Rapprochement with Iran, Egypt invites Hamas, Jihad leaders to Cairo

Israel and the Palestinian Territories

Amid Rapprochement with Iran, Egypt invites Hamas, Jihad leaders to Cairo 

Leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) headed to Cairo on Thursday for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials on ways to preserve the current ceasefire agreement with Israel, Palestinian sources said on Thursday. The visit comes amid reports about a possible rapprochement between Egypt and Iran, which has long backed Hamas and PIJ.  

In addition to the ceasefire, the discussions will also address the ongoing dispute between Hamas and the Fatah faction, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Previous attempts by Egypt and other Arab countries to end the rivalry between the two parties have hit a snag. 

The Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat revealed that Cairo has “welcomed recurring indications from Iran to strengthen its relations with Egypt,” which “hopes to develop bilateral ties with Iran,” the paper said. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting this week with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq Al-Said that Tehran welcomes better diplomatic relations with Egypt. The upcoming talks in Cairo are the first of their kind since the end of the recent round of fighting between Israel and PIJ that Jerusalem called Operation Shield and Arrow.  

U.S. Sanctions on IRGC Officers Implicated in Targeting Israelis 

The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers who were involved in plots against Israelis abroad. These included Mohammad Reza Ansari, an IRGC Quds Force member who has supported its operations in Syria and its external operations unit tasked with covert operations abroad, including in the United States, the Middle East, and Africa. Former head of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization’s counterespionage unit Rouhallah Bazghandi was also sanctioned for planned attacks against Israelis, particularly in Turkey as was Reza Saraj, who is the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization’s foreign intelligence chief.  


Lebanese Army Court Charges 5 Men Linked To Hezbollah For Irish Peacekeeper’s Death 

Lebanon’s military tribunal on Thursday charged five men with the killing of an Irish U.N. peacekeeper in December, a senior judicial official said. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, alleged all five are linked with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. 

The indictment followed a half-year probe after an attack on a U.N. peacekeeping convoy near the town of Al-Aqbiya in Lebanon’s south, a stronghold of Hezbollah. The shooting resulted in the death of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, and seriously wounded Pvt. Shane Kearney, 22. The wounded peacekeeper was medically evacuated to Ireland. Two other Irish soldiers sustained light injuries. 

The indictment includes evidence from bystanders’ testimonies, as well as audio recordings and video footage from surveillance cameras, the Lebanese official said. In some of the recordings of the confrontation, the gunmen reportedly could be heard telling the peacekeepers that they were from Hezbollah. 

Hezbollah has denied any role in the killing, and a spokesperson for the group declined to comment on the indictments Thursday. On Friday, Hezbollah officially denied that five men accused by a military tribunal of killing an Irish U.N. peacekeeper in 2022 were linked to the armed Shi'ite group. Hezbollah media official Mohammad Afif said the five accused were not members of the group, which controls the part of southern Lebanon where last year's attack took place, and also denied that the indictment had described them as Hezbollah members.  

One of five indicted, Mohamad Ayyad, is currently in the custody of Lebanese authorities. The four others facing charges - Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman - are at large. 


Israeli Airstrikes in Syria 

Airstrikes in the Damascus area earlier this week that were attributed to Israel targeted a Hezbollah terror group training base, according to an Israeli television report. Citing a “Middle Eastern intelligence source,” the Kan public broadcaster said Wednesday that the camp in the city of Dumayr, northeast of Damascus, was hit during a wave of strikes on targets in Syria’s capital on Sunday night. The unit training at the Dumayr base — known within the Iran-backed terror organization as the Golan File — operates in southern Syria near Israel’s border. Kan said Golan File members were training for operations against Israel.  

According to the Israel Defense Forces, the Golan File mostly involves collecting intelligence and recruiting operatives, but also has weaponry in its possession — namely explosives, light arms, machine guns, and antitank missiles.

Last week, it was reported that Golan File Hezbollah operatives were conducting military exercises at the Dumayr base in preparation for an attack on American troops in Syria. The report was first published by the Al-Hadath network and later confirmed by two U.S. intelligence officials. According to the reports, the training involved tanks and small arms.

The Golan File also made headlines last month after a Hezbollah operative in Syria tasked with enlisting locals to gather intelligence on Israel was reported by Kan to have resumed activities, after lying low in response to Israel’s recent arrest of one of his spies. 

Iran Reportedly to Engage in Increasingly Lethal Attacks on U.S. Forces in Syria 

The Washington Post reported this week, citing intelligence officials and leaked classified documents, that Iran is arming militants in Syria for a new phase of lethal attacks against U.S. troops there. This includes improvised explosive devices, similar to those used against U.S. forces in Iraq. The piece also cited greater cooperation with Russia on this goal, including the formation of a coordination center comprised of Russian, Iranian, and Syrian military and intelligence officials.