Hamas ready for talks with Fatah for Palestinian unity

Repeated attempts at reconciliation with Fatah have failed since the militant Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 2:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 September, 2017, 9:31pm

Hamas said on Sunday it would do away with a body seen as an alternative government in the Gaza Strip in a step towards reconciliation with rival Fatah following discussions with Egypt.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, also said it was ready for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah on forming a unity government and holding elections.

The announcement comes after talks in Cairo last week with Egyptian officials in which Hamas chief Ismail Haniya agreed to take such steps, a Hamas official said.

Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed since the militant Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the head of Fatah, with autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

A senior Fatah leader welcomed the pledge by Hamas to accept key conditions for ending a decade-old Palestinian political and territorial split.

But Mahmoud Aloul also told Voice of Palestine radio Sunday that “we want to see that happening on the ground before we move to the next step.”

In Sunday’s statement, Hamas spoke of the “dissolution” of what is known as the administrative committee, which was seen as a rival government to Abbas’s administration.

Hamas formed the committee in March, and since then Abbas has sought to put further pressure on the Islamist movement, reducing electricity payments for the Gaza Strip among other measures.

The Gaza Strip has faced deteriorating humanitarian conditions, with a severe electricity crisis and a lack of clean water, among other issues.

It has been under an Israeli blockade for around a decade, while its border with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years.

The coastal enclave of some two million people also has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.

Facing those conditions, Hamas has turned to Egypt for help, particularly involving fuel to produce power.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, including Hamas, have fought three wars since 2008.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, but Israel says it is necessary to stop Hamas from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used to make them.

Last month, the Gaza head of Hamas, Yahya al-Sinwar, said the movement had increased its military capabilities thanks to newly improved relations with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy.

Additional reporting by Associated Press