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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.

AFP

Masked cadets of the Ha­mas armed bri­gade march in Gaza

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