GAZA CITY: Hamas said yesterday it has agreed to steps toward resolving a decade-long split with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah, announcing it will dissolve a body seen as a rival government and is ready for 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”, while saying it was ready for elections and negotiations towards a unity government.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniya agreed to take such steps in talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week, a Hamas official said.
It was unclear, however, whether the steps would result in concrete action towards ending the division with Fatah, based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Previous attempts to resolve the split between Hamas and Fatah have failed.
Mahmoud Aloul, the No 2 in Fatah, described yesterday’s move as “encouraging news”. But he cautioned that “we want to see that happening on the ground before we move to the next step”.
In yesterday’s statement, Hamas spoke of the “dissolution” of the administrative committee. Hamas formed the committee in March, and since then Mr Abbas has sought to put further pressure on the Islamist movement, reducing electricity payments for the Gaza Strip among other measures.
When details emerged of the talks in Cairo last week, UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov said: “I welcome the recent developments related to Palestin- ian unity in Cairo. Reconciliation is critical to addressing the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza, preventing the continuing militant build-up and restoring hope for the future. I urge all parties to seize the current positive momentum and reach an agreement that would allow the Palestinian government to immediately take up its responsibilities in Gaza.”
Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, having seized it in a near civil war from Fatah following a dispute over parliamentary elections won by the Islamist movement.
The Gaza Strip has faced deteriorating humanitarian conditions, including a severe electricity crisis and a lack of clean water. It has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years. The coastal enclave of some two million people also has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.
Hamas has turned to Egypt for assistance, particularly for fuel to produce power — and has faced pressure to take steps toward Palestinian reconciliation in return.
Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.
Israel says its blockade is necessary to stop Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.
UN chief Antonio Guterres called for the blockade to be lifted last month, saying Gaza was enduring “one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises” he had seen.
The Gaza head of Hamas, Yahya al-Sinwar, said the movement had increased its military capabilities thanks to improved ties with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy.
Masked cadets of the Hamas armed brigade march in Gaza