Wed, Oct 04, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian PM convenes Cabinet meeting in Gaza

Reuters, GAZA

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah yesterday chaired the first meeting of the Palestinian Cabinet in Gaza since 2014 in a move toward reconciliation between the mainstream Fatah party and Islamist group Hamas.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and has ruled the impoverished desert enclave of 2 million people since then.

The Cabinet session was the first in Gaza since 2014, al-Hamdallah told his ministers, and a major step in a reconciliation process promoted by neighboring Egypt and other US-allied Arab countries.

“Today, we stand before an important, historical moment as we begin to get over our wounds, put our differences aside and place the higher national interest above all else,” he said.

Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West, last month disbanded its Gaza shadow government after Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott on its main donor, Qatar.

However, while Hamas handed over administrative responsibilities to a unity government originally formed three years ago, its armed wing remains the dominant force in Gaza.

“We understand that returning official institutions to their legitimate and legal framework and ending all the impacts of division will require exhausting efforts and a lot of patience, of time and of wisdom,” al-Hamdallah said.

Abbas on Monday told Egyptian TV station CBC there could be only “one state, one regime, one law and one weapon” in the Gaza Strip, reiterating a long-held position that security should only be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Abbas is based in the Israeli-

occupied West Bank and heads the PA government that administers limited self rule in the territory.

A PA spokesman said Abbas would not lift sanctions on Gaza at this stage, but rather await the outcome of talks planned between Fatah and Hamas in the next two weeks.

Pressuring Hamas to loosen its grip on Gaza, he halted payments for Israeli-supplied electricity to the enclave in June, a step that has led to lengthy, daily blackouts. He also withheld salaries for Gaza civil servants.

“Everything must be in the hands of the Palestinian Authority, it must be the one to control the crossing points” in and out of Gaza,” he said.

Both Israel and Egypt maintain a partial blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns.

Under previous understandings, about 3,000 Fatah security men would be integrated gradually into a Gaza police force overseen by an interior minister headed by al-Hamdallah.

Hamas’s armed wing has at least 25,000 well-equipped fighters, analysts say.

The US, which is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in 2014, is watching developments closely with the aim of improving humanitarian conditions in Gaza, US envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt said on Twitter.

However, the US “stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations,” Greenblatt said.

Hamas has long rejected those conditions.

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