Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce the formation of a Palestinian unity government with Hamas on Thursday.

“This is a move in the wrong direction. It is a move away from peace. Israel will not negotiate with a government that is blocked by Hamas, unless it accepts [the Middle East] Quartet’s benchmarks,” an Israeli official said. This includes recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of past international agreements.

“High-level consultations” on the issue have taken place, added the official.

Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, told reporters in the Gaza Strip that his faction and Hamas have reached an agreement on the names of the ministers who would serve in the unity government.

Ahmed made his announcement during a joint press conference in Gaza City with Hamas leader Musa Abu Marzouk.

He said that Abbas was expected to announce the establishment of the new government from his office in Ramallah after completing consultations with representatives of various Palestinian groups.

Ahmed added that the reconciliation pact between Fatah and Hamas, which was signed last month, was irreversible.

“We won’t move backward despite skepticism and frustration,” he stressed.

He said that Abbas was planning to visit the Gaza Strip for the first time since 2007 following the announcement of the unity government.

Abu Marzouk said the unity government would be headed by current PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. The names of the ministers would be announced by Abbas soon, he added.

The unity government, he said, would mark the end of the split between Fatah and Hamas and lead to the opening of a “new chapter in our history and homeland.”

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced that the reconciliation with Fatah would not be an alternative to “resistance” against Israel. He confirmed that Hamdallah would head the unity government and also serve as Interior Minister, while he would leave his job as prime minister of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip following the formation of the unity government.

A Palestinian source in Ramallah said the deal over the unity government was reached after Fatah promised to incorporate all Hamas civil servants into the PA and pay their salaries.

The source told the Palestine Press news agency that the Fatah leadership in the Gaza Strip was not opposed to the idea of absorbing thousands of Hamas employees into the PA.

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