Hamas says its top leader has arrived in Cairo for talks on the war in Gaza

FILE - Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, speaks during a press conference after meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, at the presidential palace, in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, June 28, 2021. Hamas said Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023. Photograph: Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP, File

Hamas’ top leader arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for talks on the war in Gaza, the militant group said in a statement.

The visit by Ismail Haniyeh came a day after Hamas fired rockets that set off air raid sirens in central Israel, a show of strength after more than 10 weeks of heavy Israeli bombardment and fierce urban combat that has devastated much of northern Gaza and driven some 1.9 million Palestinians — nearly 85% of the population — from their homes.

Israel has called on the rest of the world to blacklist Hamas as a terrorist organization and has vowed to target Hamas leaders wherever they are in response to the group’s Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel, which triggered the war.

But it was unlikely to do anything to upset relations with Egypt, which has served as a key mediator in the conflict and made peace with Israel over four decades ago.

Egypt, along with Qatar — where Haniyeh is believed to be based — helped mediate a weeklong cease-fire in November in which Hamas released over 100 hostages in exchange for Israel’s release of 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Negotiations were underway on another cease-fire and the release of more hostages held by the militant group, but the two sides appeared to be far from an agreement.

Hamas said Haniyeh would discuss the war with Egyptian officials after having arrived Wednesday in Cairo, but did not provide details.