Palestinian pact allows joint control
CAIRO — Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo on Thursday that aims to end their decade-old rivalry by providing for a joint administration with control of Gaza’s borders, including a key crossing point with Egypt, but that leaves thornier issues unresolved.
Under the agreement, which was brokered by Egyptian intelligence, Fatah will lift a series of punitive sanctions that it imposed on Hamascontrolled Gaza earlier this year.
In return, Hamas officials said they would allow the Palestinian Authority to resume control in Gaza. Egypt said a “government of national accord” would come into effect by Dec. 1. Palestinian officials said that, if all went well, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas could visit Gaza within the coming month — his first visit to the embattled coastal strip in a decade.
The deal was seen as a significant step toward ending the civil war that has split Palestinians since violent clashes between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, even if serious hurdles remain unresolved, including the status of the Hamas militant wing and its estimated 25,000 fighters.
A previous agreement between Hamas and Fatah — also signed in Cairo, in 2011 — came to nothing. Palestinian officials said the deal reached Thursday enjoys a greater chance of success because it is backed by Saudi Arabia, the United States and, they believe, Israel.
Although he was not in Cairo, Abbas gave his blessing to the deal, which he hailed as a “final agreement.”
Abbas has not visited Gaza, a tiny territory that is home to 2 million people, since Hamas ejected Fatah after a series of armed clashes.
Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to the Hamas leader, Ismail Haniya, said the two sides had agreed to joint control over the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a key lifeline for Gaza’s residents.
Reacting to news reports, citing Fatah officials, that Fatah would take control of the crossing, he said, “We will discuss the possibility of allowing the presidential guard from the West Bank to control it.”
Yousef said the two sides would convene committees to integrate their ministries into a reconciliation government. One major challenge, he said, would be to reduce the bloated, 200,000-strong Palestinian civil service, which he estimated needs to be cut by as much as 20 percent.
Hamas, Fatah and Egyptian officials smile following the signing of a reconciliation deal in Cairo.