Ha­mas and Fatah sign unity deal end­ing decade-long split

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Em­manuel Parisse and Adel Zaa­noun

RI­VAL Pales­tinian fac­tions Ha­mas and Fatah signed an agree­ment yes­ter­day on end­ing a decade-long split fol­low­ing talks me­di­ated by Egypt in Cairo, with Pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas call­ing it a “fi­nal” ac­cord.

Un­der the agree­ment, the West Bank-based Pales­tinian Author­ity is to re­sume full con­trol of the Ha­mas-con­trolled Gaza Strip by De­cem­ber 1, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Egypt’s in­tel­li­gence agency, which over­saw the talks.

The Pales­tinian Author­ity is to take full con­trol of Gaza by De­cem­ber 1 un­der the agree­ment

Ab­bas wel­comed the deal and said he con­sid­ered it a “fi­nal agree­ment to end the di­vi­sion” – though many de­tails re­main to be re­solved and pre­vi­ous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at­tempts have re­peat­edly failed.

It was signed in Cairo by new Ha­mas deputy leader Salah alAruri and Az­zam al-Ah­mad, the head of the Fatah del­e­ga­tion for the talks.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions are now ex­pected to be held on form­ing a unity govern­ment, with the var­i­ous Pales­tinian po­lit­i­cal move­ments in­vited to an­other meet­ing in Cairo on Novem­ber 21.

An of­fi­cial from Ab­bas’s Fatah move­ment said the Pales­tinian pres­i­dent was plan­ning to soon travel to the Gaza Strip as part of the unity bid in what would be his first visit in a decade.

Sanc­tions taken by Ab­bas against Ha­mas-con­trolled Gaza will also soon be lifted, the Fatah of­fi­cial said.

The deal in­cludes 3,000 mem­bers of theWest Bank-based Pales­tinian Author­ity’s po­lice force re­de­ploy­ing to Gaza, a mem­ber of the ne­go­ti­at­ing team said on con­di­tion of anonymity.

The fig­ure is how­ever a frac­tion of the more than 20,000 po­lice of­fi­cers em­ployed sep­a­rately by Ha­mas.

‘End very shortly’

An­other party to the ne­go­ti­a­tions, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, said the agree­ment would see Pales­tinian Author­ity forces take con­trol of the Rafah border cross­ing between Gaza and Egypt.

One of the key is­sues has been puni­tive mea­sures taken by Ab­bas against Gaza in re­cent months, in­clud­ing re­duc­ing elec­tric­ity pay­ments that left the ter­ri­tory’s res­i­dents with only a few hours of power a day.

“All the mea­sures taken re­cently will end very shortly,” Zakaria al-Agha, a se­nior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, said.

The two sides had been meet­ing in the Egyp­tian cap­i­tal this week with the aim of end­ing the crip­pling decade-old split between the ri­val fac­tions.

Ha­mas seized Gaza from Fatah in a near civil war in 2007 and the two fac­tions have been at log­ger­heads ever since. Mul­ti­ple pre­vi­ous rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts have failed.

Egypt has been keen to im­prove se­cu­rity in the Si­nai Penin­sula which bor­ders Gaza and where ji­hadist rebels have fought a long-run­ning in­sur­gency. An Egyp­tian source close to the talks said in­tel­li­gence chief Khaled Fawzi had fol­lowed the ne­go­ti­a­tions closely.

Fate of armed wing

Last month, Ha­mas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza to the Pales­tinian Author­ity but the fate of its vast mil­i­tary wing re­mains a sig­nif­i­cant is­sue for the two sides.

Is­lamist move­ment Ha­mas is black­listed as a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion by the United States and the Euro­pean Union. It has fought three wars with Is­rael since 2008 and the block­aded Gaza Strip has seen de­te­ri­o­rat­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian con­di­tions.

Faced with in­creas­ing iso­la­tion and a se­vere elec­tric­ity short­age, Ha­mas has reached out to Egypt for help, hop­ing to have the Rafah border opened.

The cross­ing has re­mained largely closed in re­cent years.

Egypt has also agreed to pro­vide fuel to the Gaza Strip for elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion.

In re­turn, Cairo pressed Ha­mas to move for­ward on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with Fatah.

Pre­vi­ous at­tempts at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion have re­peat­edly failed, and many an­a­lysts are treat­ing the lat­est bid with cau­tion, wait­ing to see if ac­tual change will oc­cur on the ground.

Last week, Pales­tinian Author­ity Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah vis­ited Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his min­is­ters took for­mal con­trol of govern­ment de­part­ments in the ter­ri­tory. But the move was seen as mainly sym­bolic, with Ha­mas still ef­fec­tively in charge in the Pales­tinian en­clave of 2 mil­lion peo­ple bor­dered by Egypt, Is­rael and the Mediter­ranean Sea.

One of the key stick­ing points will be the fate of Ha­mas’s 25,000-strong mil­i­tary wing, the Ezze­dine al-Qas­sam Bri­gades.

Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion could also pose a dilemma for in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to reach an Is­raeli-Pales­tinian peace deal since Ha­mas has not recog­nised Is­rael, un­like the Ab­bas-led Pales­tine Lib­er­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion.


Pales­tini­ans cel­e­brate in Gaza City af­ter Ha­mas said it had reached a deal with Pales­tinian ri­val Fatah, yes­ter­day.

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