Pales­tinian ri­vals reach pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment on gov­ern­ing Gaza

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD - By Hamza Hen­dawi and Fares Akram

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.

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