Palestinian rivals reach preliminary agreement on governing Gaza
CAIRO — Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas reached a preliminary agreement Thursday that could return the Gaza Strip to President Mahmoud Abbas’ control and ease a decade-old Israeli-Egyptian blockade of the coastal territory, but past attempts at unity have foundered on key issues that remain unresolved.
The deal was announced at a news conference in Cairo, where negotiators have been meeting, and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said it was reached under “generous Egyptian auspices,” without elaborating. Egypt has been eager to show progress in unity talks, and both Palestinian factions face pressure to resolve their differences.
The sides have tried, and failed, to reach reconciliation several times before, but even with such skepticism Palestinians celebrated Thursday’s announcement.
“This is the dream and the ambition of every patriotic and honorable Palestinian, to reach unification,” said Ramallah resident Jawad Abu Shaikha.
In Gaza, residents took to the streets to rejoice. “I hope there will be implementation on the ground for the issues agreed upon, because we are truly tired from the division and poverty,” said Waed Mesameh.
A senior Palestinian official said Abbas, the leader of Fatah, might visit Gaza in the coming weeks, depending on the successful implementation of the agreement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.
The Western-backed Abbas hasn’t 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 left Abbas in control of 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, Hamas would hand over responsibilities of governing Gaza to the West Bank-based government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.