Indirect talks between Hamas and Israel, scheduled to begin in Cairo on Monday, were postponed in the wake of Friday’s attacks in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to media reports. At least 33 Egyptian soldiers were killed and nearly 30 were injured in two separate attacks on military checkpoints in northern Sinai.
The announcement came just hours after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reportedly alleged that “foreign hands” were behind the attacks and a senior Egyptian military official accused “Palestinian elements” of being involved.
“All the big terrorist operations which have taken place in North Sinai in the last few years involved well-trained Palestinian elements, including the attack on the military helicopter at the beginning of this year,” Major General Sameeh Beshadi said, referring to an attack by the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, or ABM, which killed at least five Egyptian soldiers, according to a report by Asharq Al-Awsat, a London-based Arabic daily.
Egypt has, in the past, accused Hamas of aiding and abetting local militant groups in Sinai. However, Hamas reportedly denied being involved in Friday’s attacks, which are the deadliest since the ouster of Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
“We are against the shedding of a drop of Egyptian blood. We wish Egypt security and stability,” Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, told Reuters.
As of now, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which reportedly bear the hallmarks of ABM.
Confirming the cancellation of the planned talks, Azam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, told Haaretz that the negotiations would resume in the second half of November. Egyptian authorities have so far not announced a new date for the resumption of the talks, according to media reports.
The scheduled talks were to focus on preserving the ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip. In the recently-concluded 50-day long war, over 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed, and hundreds of thousands were displaced.