Pales­tini­ans end decade-long split Ha­mas, Fatah sign deal on rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

Arab News - - FRONT PAGE - HAZEM BALOUSHA

GAZA CITY: Ri­val Pales­tinian fac­tions signed a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion agree­ment on Thurs­day in Cairo, end­ing a decade­long di­vi­sion.

The an­nounce­ment came af­ter two days of in­ten­sive talks between del­e­ga­tions from Ha­mas and the Pales­tinian Author­ity (PA) at the Egyp­tian in­tel­li­gence head­quar­ters.

PA rep­re­sen­ta­tive Az­zam Al-Ahmed and Ha­mas rep­re­sen­ta­tive Saleh Al-Arouri an­nounced the agree­ment at a press con­fer­ence, say­ing the govern­ment will go back to work ac­cord­ing to the Pales­tinian ba­sic law.

Al-Ahmed said PA pres­i­den­tial guards will fully con­trol all of Gaza’s bor­ders from Nov. 1, adding that Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas in­structed the del­e­ga­tion “not to come back with­out an agree­ment.”

Al-Arouri thanked Egypt for its sup­port of the Pales­tinian peo­ple. At a press con­fer­ence in Gaza, se­nior Ha­mas of­fi­cial Salah Bar­dawil con­grat­u­lated the Pales­tinian peo­ple on the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion agree­ment.

The an­nounce­ment fol­lowed Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah’s first visit to Gaza since 2015. It was the first prac­ti­cal step fol­low­ing Egyp­tian-me­di­ated rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks in Cairo.

Ha­mas dis­solved its gov­ern­ing body in Gaza last month, 11 years af­ter tak­ing over the ter­ri­tory by force.

Is­rael has since im­posed a strict block­ade on Gaza, which is pop­u­lated by 2 mil­lion Pales­tini­ans.

The in­tra-Pales­tinian split be­gan af­ter Ha­mas won par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in 2006. Bloody clashes between Ha­mas and Fatah ended with the for­mer tak­ing over Gaza and oust­ing pro-Ab­bas forces to the West Bank.

Gaza-based po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Mostafa Ibra­heem said the tim­ing is right for both par­ties to rec­on­cile.

“Both of them needed the agree­ment. Ha­mas is no longer able to con­trol Gaza, and Ab­bas wants a united lead­er­ship to ne­go­ti­ate with the Is­raelis,” Ibra­heem told Arab News.

Un­der the deal, Ab­bas will lift eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed on Ha­mas-con­trolled Gaza ear­lier this year. “I wel­come the agree­ment reached between Fatah and Ha­mas in Cairo,” he said. Hun­dreds of Pales­tini­ans took to the streets of Gaza in cel­e­bra­tion.

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

Thou­sands of Pales­tini­ans took to the streets of Gaza to cel­e­brate the deal, Agence France Presse (AFP) re­ported.

In a square in Gaza City, they chanted songs about na­tional unity, while peo­ple dis­trib­uted cel­e­bra­tory sweets.

Large signs bear­ing the faces of Ab­bas, Egyp­tian leader Ab­del Fat­tah El-Sisi and Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh were held aloft by the crowd.

Ji­had Seaam, 23, said the an­nounce­ment had brought new hope. “Young peo­ple to­day are filled with un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and frus­tra­tion,” he told AFP in Gaza.

“Their hope was re­newed to­day with the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion agree­ment,” he said. “The most im­por­tant thing now is the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment and not to let us down.”

In the West Bank, too, peo­ple wel­comed the agree­ment, though there were no ma­jor cel­e­bra­tions in Ra­mal­lah, the base of the Fatah­dom­i­nated Pales­tinian Author­ity.

“We hope that it will be a real agree­ment and that (of­fi­cials from the two move­ments) will elim­i­nate the ob­sta­cles that are hin­der­ing it,” said Siam Nouwwara, a so­cial worker.

“Gaza res­i­dents are tired, like the res­i­dents of the West Bank. There was a feel­ing of two sep­a­rate peo­ples. Peo­ple weren’t say­ing ‘Pales­tine’ any more, but rather ‘Gaza and the West Bank.’”

Ab­bas to visit Gaza in the next few weeks

Fatah and Ha­mas: A decade of strained ties Page — 3

Fatah-Ha­mas deal boosts hopes for UK recog­ni­tion of Pales­tine: Pales­tinian am­bas­sador to UK — www.arab­news.com

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Khaled Fawzi, cen­ter, head of the Egyp­tian In­tel­li­gence ser­vices, shares a laugh with mem­bers of Ha­mas in­clud­ing Ha­mas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sin­war and se­nior Ha­mas of­fi­cial Iz­zat Al-Rishq in the pres­ence of Fatah’s Az­zam Al-Ahmed,

sec­ond right, fol­low­ing the sign­ing of a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal in Cairo on Thurs­day. (AFP)

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