New Hamas leader Haniyeh in Egypt to hold meeting on Gaza blockade

The new chief of Palestinian group Hamas Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo Saturday to hold talks with senior Egyptian officials on his first such visit as leader, a Hamas spokesman said.

In the past few months Hamas has sought to mend relations with Egypt, which controls their one border crossing and has, under President AbdelFattah al-Sisi, been highly wary of ties between Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, ousted from power by Sisi after mass protests.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal territory that shares borders with Egypt and Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008. For much of the last decade, Egypt has joined Israel in enforcing a partial land, sea and air blockade of Gaza. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the talks with Egypt will focus on alleviating the blockade and mending a longstanding rift with rival group Fatah, headed by Western-backed Palestinian President MahmoudAbbas.

There was no immediate comment from Egyptian officials on the talks. Haniyeh was elected Hamas leader in May. The group maintains a sizable armed wing in Gaza since seizing the enclave from Fatah in 2007. Israel, which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and coordinates closely with it on security, is maintaining a close watch on discussions between Egypt and Hamas. Like the United States and the European Union, it regards Hamas as a terrorist group.