Pales­tinian ri­vals Ha­mas and Fatah sign deal

The Herald (South Africa) - - WORLD -

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

Pic­ture: AFP/MAH­MUD HAMS

WEL­COME NEWS: Pales­tini­ans wave the flags of Egypt and Pales­tine as they cel­e­brate the lat­est agree­ment

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