Pales­tinian ri­vals reach ten­ta­tive Gaza strip agree­ment

The Scotsman - - World News - By MAR­GARET NEIGHBOUR

Ri­val Pales­tinian groups Ha­mas and Fatah have reached a pre­lim­i­nary, par­tial agree­ment that could pave the way for Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas to re­sume gov­ern­ing the Gaza Strip a decade af­ter Ha­mas over­ran the ter­ri­tory, of­fi­cials said.

De­tails of the deal were an­nounced at a news con­fer­ence in Cairo, where the ne­go­tia­tors were meet­ing.

Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh said in a state­ment that the deal was reached un­der “gen­er­ous Egyp­tian aus­pices”.

A se­nior Pales­tinian of­fi­cial said Mr Ab­bas, the leader of Fatah, might visit Gaza in the com­ing weeks, depend­ing on the suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion of the agree­ment.

The Western-backed Mr Ab­bas has not set foot in Gaza since 2007, when the Is­lamic mil­i­tant Ha­mas, his main ide­o­log­i­cal ri­val, seized the ter­ri­tory af­ter days of fac­tional street bat­tles.

The Ha­mas takeover, which came a year af­ter the group de­feated Fatah in Pales­tinian par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, left Mr Ab­bas with au­ton­o­mous en­claves in the Is­raeli-oc­cu­pied West Bank.

Over the past decade, each side deep­ened con­trol over its ter­ri­tory, mak­ing it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to forge com­pro­mises, and re­peated at­tempts at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion failed.

Un­der the emerg­ing agree­ment,hamas­would­han­dover re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for gov­ern­ing Gaza to the West Bank-based govern­ment of prime min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah.

Az­zam al-ah­mad, head of the Fatah del­e­ga­tion, said Mr Ab­bas’ Pales­tinian Author­ity would as­sume con­trol of the cross­ing points between Gaza and Is­rael by 1 Novem­ber.

He said Mr Ab­bas’ pres­i­den­tial guard would as­sume con­trol of the Rafah cross­ing between Gaza and Egypt, but did not spec­ify a timetable.

Egypt has kept the Rafah border cross­ing closed for most of the last decade.

Be­fore the Ha­mas takeover, Mr Ab­bas’ pres­i­den­tial guard ad­min­is­tered the cross­ing un­der EU mon­i­tor­ing.

“The Rafah cross­ing needs some mea­sures to im­prove and ren­o­vate the build­ings in a way that is wor­thy of Egypt and the Pales­tinian peo­ple so as it can op­er­ate smoothly,” Mr al-ah­mad said dur­ing the an­nounce­ment of the deal.

A se­nior Ha­mas of­fi­cial said both sides agreed that Euro­pean mon­i­tors could be posted at the cross­ing, a mea­sure that might as­suage Is­raeli con­cerns about weapons smug­gling.

A per­ma­nent open­ing of the Rafah cross­ing would mean an end to the crip­pling Is­raeli and Egyp­tian block­ade im­posed on Gaza af­ter the Ha­mas takeover, which pre­vents free trade and bars the vast ma­jor­ity of Gaza’s two mil­lion peo­ple from leav­ing the ter­ri­tory.

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