Hamas officially confirmed that the organization's deputy leader, Saleh al-Arouri, who is responsible for several bloody terrorist attacks, would arrive in Gazaon Thursday accompanied by a delegation to the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources told Ynet that Egypt and the United Nations had promised that Israel would not harm him and that his visit would only deal with the Egyptian reconciliation proposal with Fatah (a Palestinian nationalist political party), and a long-term arrangement with Israel.
UN envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov had pledged, together with the Egyptians, that Israel would not harm al-Arouri during his stay in the Gaza Strip, but the final decision is yet to be made, for fear of his assassination.
In addition, Hamas spokesman Husam Badran, and senior Hamas figure Mousa Mohammed Abu Marzook are expected to join al-Arouri.
The arrival of the delegation comes in light of significant progress which has been made between the Egyptian intelligence chief and the delegations of Fatah and Hamas in Cairo over the past two weeks in an attempt to restart the reconciliation process between the sides.
The talks between the delegations are being conducted separately.
Earlier this week, the Fatah delegation had visited Cairo and two days ago arrived the delegation of Hamas—headed by al-Arouri himself.
If the talks progress as expected, a face to face meeting between the Fatah and Hamas delegations, mediated by senior Egyptian intelligence officials, is expected to take place on Saturday in Cairo.
There is a possibility that after the meeting the two sides will officially announce an agreement on the continuation of the reconciliation process, which is a first step on the road to a wide-scale arrangement plan for the Gaza Strip.
The plan, currently advanced by the Egyptians and UN envoy to the Middle East, also involves Israel and the United States.
Saleh al-Arouri, 52, was born in a village near Ramallah in 1966. He was educated in the West Bank and holds a BA in Islamic Sharia studies from Hebron University.
He has held religious views since an early age and belonged to an Islamic movement when he was a university student in the 1980’s, before the establishment of Hamas.
After Hamas was officially established, al-Arouri became one of the founding member of Hamas's military wing in the West Bank and had participated in its activities during the first intifada.
He was arrested by the IDF in 1992 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Following his release in 2010, al-Arouri was deported .He later moved to Syria, where he stayed for three years.
The severing of relations between Hamas and the Assad regime during the civil war in the country, forced al-Arouri to leave Damascus in 2012 in move to Turkey.
Moreover, al-Arouri took part in the Gilad Shalit deal and was one of the organization's members who engaged in indirect negotiations with Israel.
After his release from prison, al-Arouri established Hamas's "West Bank headquarters," which is responsible, to this day, for directing the organization's military activity in the West Bank.
The Hamas leader carried out this task from his residence abroad, and through a branch of Hamas's headquarters in the Gaza Strip which was operated by members of Hamas who were released from prison following the Shalit deal: Abd al-Rahman Ghanimat and Mazen Pukha, who was assassinated last March in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli officials did not approve of al-Arouri presence in Turkey, but the tense relations between Ankara and Jerusalem prevented them from effectively pressuring Turkey to expel the Hamas leader.
One of the conditions that Israel set was the expulsion of al-Arouri from Turkey. President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed, and in 2015 the prominent Hamas chief left the country and moved to Qatar alongside several other members of the Hamas leadership.
In 2017, Qatar sent a list of senior Hamas's members who were asked to leave the country to the organization's leadership. Apparently, the US and Israel pressured Qatar to carry out the move.
Saleh al-Arouri was named on the list, seemingly because he directed terrorist activity in the West Bank from his residence in Qatar. He later left Qatar and currently resides in Lebanon where he continues to direct the organization's military activity in the West Bank.
al-Arouri name was also linked to the abduction and murder of the three youths—Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrah—following a video in which the senior officer speaks about the attack. However, to this day no official seal of approval has been given for his direct involvement.
The senior Hamas official speaks fluent Hebrew, which he learned during his years in a Israeli prison. Those who met him described him as a very wise man who tends to examine things in a focused strategic way.
Hamas's ties with Iran had cooled down during former Hamas's chief, Khaled Mashal, last term.
In order to increase Iranian support for the organization's military wing, al-Arouri, a member of the pro-Iranian group inside Hamas, advocates for the rehabilitation of Hamas's relations with Tehran.