Palestinian PM In Rare Gaza Visit As Rift With Hamas Eases

Thursday, 05 Oct, 2017

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian faction Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept 2006 legislative polls that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel and the global community.

Hamas, which the United States and many other countries list as a terrorist organisation, increased its power over the Israeli-Egyptian blockaded Gaza strip after military confrontations with its rival Fatah, who hold power in the occupied West Bank, in 2007 following the groups electoral victory in the coastal enclave. Hamas has controlled the territory since seizing it from the PA in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

He said all outstanding administrative issues, including the issue of public employees, would be gradually dealt with in the framework of the 2014 Cairo agreement "within the available resources". In turn, Israeli strikes on Hamas target in Gaza are commonplace.

Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to form a future independent state but internationally recognised president Mahmud Abbas, long the negotiating partner for Israel, has been undermined by Hamas' control of Gaza. Hamas expected the sanctions to be lifted after it dismantled the committee and invited the PA to return to Gaza.

Hamas's military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has an estimated 27,000 men under arms.

In a pre-recorded speech played at the meeting, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi backed the talks. "We will be faced with obstacles and challenges, but our people are able to rise again from among destruction and suffering", Hamdallah said.

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"Now it is time to work because the only beneficiary of divisions is the occupation forces", the Palestinian prime minister said, addressing the welcoming crowds.

According to Abbas, in order for reconciliation to take place, all weapons, including Hamas' weapons, must be handed over to the PA. "We won't accept a reproduction of the experience of Hizbollah in Lebanon", where the Shiite organisation runs an armed wing beyond the state's control, Mr Abbas said.

One eve of Gaza reconciliation, Hamas frees Fatah men, October 1, 2017. Hamas with its new charter has stated its willingness to be a part of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) to fight for liberation by accepting the statehood with 1967 borders and supporting the non-violent resistance with the right of recourse to armed resistance in self-defence.

Mr Abbas said "differences remain" with Hamas.

Haniyeh continued: "We are ready to discuss any issue with Fatah and the other factions to reach a united programme on identity, authority and leadership".