Egypt reportedly played a critical role in securing the release on Monday of two more hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza. Egypt’s assistance was acknowledged by Gal Hirsch, Israel’s special envoy for missing and kidnapped Israelis. In a statement, he thanked the Egyptian government for its mediation efforts in helping free Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, two Israelis whose husbands remain among the 220 other hostages still held by Hamas.
This is the second time that Egypt has quietly intervened to prevent or reduce violence in the long-standing enmity between Hamas and Israel. Days before Hamas terrorists stunned Israel on Oct. 7 by slaughtering 1,400 Israelis near Israel’s border with Gaza, Egypt’s chief of intelligence, Abbas Kamel, was said to have warned senior Israeli officials that something “big” and “worrisome” was taking place in Gaza and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ought to consider moving forces from northern Israel and the West Bank, where settlers and Palestinians have increasingly clashed, to the Gaza border. For reasons that remain unclear, Egypt’s warning was not heeded; Israel’s soldiers were kept in the West Bank.
Egypt usually has had far greater success operating behind the scenes than on the world stage. Consider the failed Arab “summit for peace” in Cairo this past weekend, which Egypt convened to try to de-escalate the violence in Gaza. Representatives of dozens of Arab, African and European countries tried to forge a consensus but, after a day of lofty rhetoric and mutual recrimination, they could not even agree on a joint statement, the traditional end to such largely symbolic gatherings.