Rival factions Fatah and Hamas have reached a reconciliation deal to form a unity government. Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority will take over governing in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal to form a unity government on Thursday, a decade after bitter rivalry split the Palestinian movement.
Hamas representative Saleh al-Arouri and Fatah’s negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed signed the agreement after two days of Egypt-mediated talks in Cairo.
The agreement, if implemented, would see the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Fatah take over governing in the Gaza Strip by December 1.
Negotiations are now expected to center of forming a unity government. Other Palestinian factions were invited to another meeting in Cairo slated for November 21.
Read more: What are Fatah and Hamas?
A landslide victory for Hamas in 2006 elections sparked clashes between the two groups, leading to the dissolution of a tenuous coalition government and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip and Fatah the West Bank.
One person associated with the negotiations told news agency AFP that the agreement would see the PA take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, likely under the supervision of the European Union border agency, EUBAM.
Israel and Egypt have blockaded the Gaza Strip, isolating Hamas and inflicting suffering on the enclave’s 1.8 million inhabitants.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has also implemented sanctions on Gaza, including reducing electricity payments, which has left residents with limited power.
A Fatah official told AFP that as part of the deal punitive sanctions on Gaza would be lifted.
The Islamist Hamas party has an armed wing and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Israel. It remained unclear what would happen to Hamas’ armed wing and whether its members would relinquish military control over Gaza.
Previous attempts at reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions failed to materialize.
In September, Hamas agreed to cede certain powers in Gaza to the PA, but differences remained over the role of the militant group’s 25,000-strong military wing.
The deal reportedly provides for 3,000 members of the PA police force to return to Gaza.
Last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his ministers took control of government departments. According to PA officials, Abbas was also planning to soon visit Gaza Strip for the first time in over a decade.
The split Palestinian movement has been one impediment to peace talks with Israel. But an agreement between Fatah and Hamas could pose new challenges.
Unlike Fatah, Hamas does not recognize the Oslo Accords and rejects recognizing Israel.
In a new charter announced earlier this year, Hamas dropped its wording of “destroying” Israel and said it would recognize a Palestinian state within the borders created by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The charter says Hamas would continue armed resistance as a legitimate right and would not recognize the Oslo Accords.
Israel reiterates calls for Hamas to disarm
Israel on Thursday again called on Hamas to disarm and recognize the state of Israel as part of the new agreement.
“Any reconciliation between the [Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority] and Hamas must include a commitment to international agreements and to the conditions of the Quartet, first of which is recognizing Israel and demilitarizing Hamas,” an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The Quartet refers the diplomatic Middle East peace mission made up of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.
“Israel will study the developments on the ground and will act accordingly. As long as Hamas remains armed and as long as it calls for the destruction of Israel, Israel will consider Hamas responsible for any terror attack originating from Gaza,” the official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that his government would only accept a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah if the former agreed to recognize Israel, give up its armed force and cut ties with Iran.
dm/cw/rs/sms (dpa, Reuters)