JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret summit with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt in May to discuss a long-term ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s Channel Ten News said on Monday.
A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment on the report and there was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials. Channel Ten, citing unnamed senior U.S. officials, said the meeting was held on May 22.
Egypt and the United Nations have been trying to mediate a long-term truce between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza, following a spike in cross-border violence in the past few months.
The two leaders discussed the easing of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, rehabilitation of its infrastructure and terms for a ceasefire, the report said.
More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the Gaza Strip, which is experiencing deep economic hardship. The World Bank has described the situation as a humanitarian crisis with shortages of water, electricity and medicine.
Citing security concerns, Israel and Egypt keep tight restrictions on their border crossings with Gaza, which have reduced the enclave’s economy to a state of collapse.
Israel says the blockade is intended to prevent weapons reaching Hamas and other Gaza militant groups who have launched hundreds of rockets across the border in the past few months, during which time Israel has also carried out dozens of air strikes, targeting what it said were Hamas sites.
At least 161 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire in weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border that began on March 30, and one Israeli soldier has been killed by a Palestinian sniper.