Fri, Oct 13, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Rival Palestinian factions sign deal

DECADE-LONG SPLIT:Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a near civil war in 2007 and the two Palestinian factions have been at loggerheads ever since

AFP, CAIRO

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah yesterday signed an agreement on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas calling it a “final” accord.

Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority is to resume full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt’s intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks.

Abbas welcomed the deal and said he considered it a “final agreement to end the division” — though many details remain to be resolved and previous reconciliation attempts have repeatedly failed.

It was signed in Cairo by Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri and Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah delegation for the talks.

Negotiations are now expected to be held on forming a unity government, with the various Palestinian political movements invited to another meeting in Cairo on Nov. 21.

An official from Abbas’ Fatah movement said the Palestinian president was planning to travel to the Gaza Strip as part of the unity bid in what would be his first visit in a decade.

Sanctions taken by Abbas against Hamas-controlled Gaza would also soon be lifted, the Fatah official said.

The deal includes 3,000 members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s police force redeploying to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team said on condition of anonymity.

The figure is a fraction of the more than 20,000 police officers employed separately by Hamas.

Another party to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would see Palestinian Authority forces take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

One of the key issues has been punitive measures taken by Abbas against Gaza, including reducing electricity payments that left the territory’s residents with only a few hours of power a day.

“All the measures taken recently will end very shortly,” said Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip.

The two sides had been meeting in the Egyptian capital this week with the aim of ending the crippling decade-old split between the rival factions.

Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in a near civil war in 2007 and the two factions have been at loggerheads ever since. Multiple previous reconciliation efforts have failed.

Egypt has been keen to improve security in the Sinai Peninsula which borders Gaza and where jihadist rebels have fought a long-running insurgency.

An Egyptian source close to the talks said intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi had followed the negotiations closely.

Last month, Hamas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, but the fate of its vast military wing remains a significant issue for the two sides.

Faced with increasing isolation and a severe electricity shortage, Hamas has reached out to Egypt for help, hoping to have the Rafah border opened.

Egypt has also agreed to provide fuel to the Gaza Strip for electricity generation.

In return, Cairo pressed Hamas to move forward on reconciliation with Fatah.

Previous attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed and many analysts are treating the latest bid with caution, waiting to see if actual change would occur on the ground.

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