Pales­tinian fac­tions sign ma­jor unity deal

Agree­ment a ‘first step’ to po­ten­tially ease emerg­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Gaza

Toronto Star - - WORLD - DE­CLAN WALSH AND DAVID M. HALBFINGER THE NEW YORK TIMES

CAIRO— The main Pales­tinian fac­tions signed a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion agree­ment Thurs­day that aims to mend their decade-old rift and places Gaza and the West Bank un­der one govern­ment for the first time since 2007.

Un­der the agree­ment, the Pales­tinian Author­ity, which now con­trols the West Bank, would in the com­ing weeks take ad­min­is­tra­tive con­trol of Gaza and po­lice its bor­ders, merg­ing its se­cu­rity forces and min­istries with those of Ha­mas, the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group that con­trols the coastal strip.

While both sides hailed the agree­ment as a sig­nif­i­cant step to­ward unit­ing the Pales­tinian ter­ri­to­ries — and po­ten­tial re­lief for Gazans suf­fer­ing dire short­ages of elec­tric­ity and med­i­cal sup­plies — it left many thornier is­sues un­re­solved, in­clud­ing the fate of the main Ha­mas mili­tia and the net­work of tun­nels un­der Gaza used by fight­ers and smug­glers.

Of­fi­cials from both sides stressed that the agree­ment, bro­kered by Egypt, was a first step, and that much de­pends on how events un­furl on the ground in the com­ing weeks.

The two sides agreed to be­gin talks next month to form a unity govern­ment that would over­see both ter­ri­to­ries. Those talks would have to wres­tle with the is­sues that de­railed pre­vi­ous peace ini­tia­tives.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said the deal reached in Cairo on Thurs­day en- joyed a greater chance of suc­cess be­cause it is backed by Saudi Ara­bia, Egypt and, they be­lieve, the United States and Is­rael.

But the Is­raeli prime min­is­ter, Ben- jamin Ne­tanyahu, threw cold water on it, say­ing that Is­rael “ob­jects to any rec­on­cil­i­a­tion that does not in­clude” ac­cept­ing in­ter­na­tional agree­ments, rec­og­niz­ing Is­rael and dis­arm­ing Ha­mas.

In the short term, the agree­ment prom­ises to ease con­di­tions in Gaza that aid or­ga­ni­za­tions have warned con­sti­tute an emerg­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

The Pales­tinian Author­ity has promised to lift sanc­tions that it im­posed on Gaza ear­lier this year as part of its ef­fort to pres­sure Ha­mas into talks.

The govern­ment, led by the Fatah fac­tion, cut elec­tric­ity sup­plies to a few hours a day and stopped pay­ing govern­ment salaries in Gaza.

Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said that if all went well, the Pales­tinian Author­ity pres­i­dent, Mah­moud Ab­bas, could visit Gaza in the com­ing month, his first visit to the coastal strip in a decade. Although he was not in Cairo, Ab­bas gave his bless­ing to the deal.

KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

The two ri­val Pales­tinian move­ments have ended their decade-long split fol­low­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions over­seen by Egypt.

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