Hamas agrees to steps toward Palestinian unity

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years. Abbas is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, where he is set to speak on Wednesday.

By: AFP | Gaza City | Updated: September 17, 2017 6:41 pm
Hamas, Ismail Haniya, Hamas Palestine, Israel Palestine conflict, Gaza strip, Hamas leaders, World News, Indian Express Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) gestures during a memorial service in Gaza City. (Source: Reuters)

Hamas said on Sunday it had agreed to steps toward resolving a decade-long split with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, announcing it would dissolve a body seen as a rival government and was ready to hold elections. The statement comes after Hamas leaders held talks with Egyptian officials last week, and with the Gaza Strip run by the Palestinian Islamist movement facing a mounting humanitarian crisis.

Hamas said it had agreed to key demands made by Fatah: dissolving the so-called “administrative committee” created in March, while saying it was ready for elections and negotiations toward a unity government. It called on the Palestinian Authority government based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank “to come to Gaza to exercise its functions and carry out its duties immediately”.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya agreed to take such steps in talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week, a Hamas official has told AFP. It was unclear, however, whether the steps would result in further concrete action toward ending the deep division with Fatah. Hamas for now continues to run a de facto separate administration in the Gaza Strip and is in charge of the security forces there.

Previous attempts to resolve the split have repeatedly failed. Abbas’s Fatah welcomed the announcement, saying it followed “extensive meetings” between its own representatives and Egyptian intelligence officials. Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said a bilateral meeting with Hamas would be organised to begin working out a way forward.

“There will be tangible practical steps in the next few days, starting with the Palestinian national unity government resuming its work according to law in Gaza as it does in the West Bank, in order to continue its efforts to relieve the suffering of our people in the strip and work towards lifting the unjust blockade,” Ahmad told official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The Gaza Strip has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years. Abbas is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, where he is set to speak on Wednesday. UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said: “I welcome the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the administrative committee in Gaza and agreement to allow the government of national consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.”

“It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority.” In Sunday’s statement, Hamas spoke of the “dissolution” of the administrative committee, which was seen as a rival government to Abbas’s administration.

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