Despite the looming deadline for the Palestinian Authority to take full responsibility for the Gaza Strip on December 1, Hamas has barely empowered the PA government to operate in the small territory, PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh said.
Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement on October 12 in Cairo to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA’s governing authority in Gaza. According to the agreement, the two rival factions agreed to “complete measures to empower the [PA] government to completely undertake its duties and responsibilities in administrating the Strip... by December 1 [Friday].”
“We are like the child that is crawling on this issue of empowering the government,” Sheikh told PA television in an interview on Saturday night. “We have not surpassed the 5% [marker] on the issue of empowering the government.”
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 form the territory.
Sheikh’s comments on Saturday came some three days after Fatah, Hamas and 11 other Palestinian factions participated in two days of reconciliation talks in Cairo under the auspices of the Egyptian Intelligence Services.
According to Sheikh, Hamas has prevented the PA from collecting taxes and calling up its employees to work in its ministries in Gaza and stifled discussions on the future of the Strip’s security.
Sheikh also said that the PA has not been empowered to run Gaza’s border crossings, which Hamas turned over to the PA on November 1.
“We went to the borders. We sent our civil teams to the borders. [But] I tell you that all of our teams are barefoot and naked…because the government cannot be empowered along the borders without security,” he said.
There are reportedly some 120 unarmed members of the PA security forces at Gaza’s crossings with Israel and Egypt.
Fatah and Hamas are sharply divided on the issue of Gaza’s future security. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has said the Authority should control all weapons in Gaza, while Hamas has said that its armed wing will not concede its weapons to the Ramallah based government.
Hamas spokesman Salah Bardaweil objected to Sheikh’s comments on Sunday, tweeting: “You all have taken over the ministries, authorities and crossings.”
Sheikh also accused Hamas of not dissolving its governing body in Gaza, otherwise known as the administrative committee.
“The administrative committee is still working and acting. Hamas did not dissolve it,” he said.
Hamas agreed to dissolve its administrative committee in mid-September at the behest of Abbas.