Sisi stresses effort to rebuild Gaza in first call with Bennett


Cairo (Reuters) – Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Israel’s new leader on Monday it was important to follow through on Egypt-backed efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip following last month’s fighting there, the Egyptian presidency said.

In his first phone call with Naftali Bennett since Bennett took office two weeks ago, Sisi stressed Egypt’s support for efforts to reach a fair and permanent solution between the Palestinians and Israelis, Egypt’s presidency said.

Sisi stressed the importance of supporting an Egyptian drive to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after last month’s fighting between Israel and the Hamas Islamist group which controls it.

A statement from Bennett’s office said the Israeli leader had thanked Egypt for its role in brokering the ceasefire that ended the fighting, and its mediation in helping find Israelis missing or captured in Gaza. The two leaders would work towards meeting soon.

Egypt and Qatar have pledged $500 million each for reconstruction in the Palestinian enclave, where two-thirds of 2 million residents rely on aid.

Israel says that can proceed only if headway is made in efforts to recover two soldiers missing in action in a 2014 Gaza war as well as two civilians who slipped separately into the enclave. Hamas rejects any link between reconstruction and finding missing persons.

The Gaza government says 2,200 homes were destroyed and 37,000 damaged by Israeli shelling during 11 days of cross-border exchanges. Israel and Egypt jointly maintain a security blockade, restricting imports and exports from Gaza.

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