Palestinian rivals Hamas and Fatah sign deal
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.
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 al-Aruri and Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah delegation for the talks, at the headquarters of Egypt’s intelligence service, which oversaw the negotiations.
Celebrations broke out in the Gaza Strip after the announcement of the deal, with residents waving flags of Egypt, Palestine, Fatah and Hamas.
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.
Sanctions taken by Abbas against Hamas-controlled Gaza will also soon be lifted, the Fatah official said.
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.
The two sides had been meeting in Cairo 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.
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, Hamas has reached out to Egypt for help, hoping to have the Rafah border opened
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.
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. – AFP
WELCOME NEWS: Palestinians wave the flags of Egypt and Palestine as they celebrate the latest agreement