Pales­tinian pact al­lows joint con­trol

San Francisco Chronicle - - WORLD - By De­clan Walsh De­clan Walsh is a New York Times writer.

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.

Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Ha­mas, Fatah and Egyp­tian of­fi­cials smile fol­low­ing the sign­ing of a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion deal in Cairo.

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