Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad (L) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
High-level Hamas and Fatah delegations conducted a round of talks in Cairo on Tuesday, in an effort to restore the territorial unity of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Since Hamas forcibly ousted the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007, the rival parties have essentially established separate regimes: a Hamas-controlled government in Gaza and a Fatah-led government in the West Bank.
However, some three weeks ago, Hamas announced its readiness to hand responsibility for Gaza over to the PA.
Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh said early Tuesday morning that the talks, which are being held under the auspices of the Egyptian Intelligence Directorate, would focus on enabling the PA to operate in Gaza.
“We want to extend the rule of law to Gaza as [has been done] in the West Bank,” Qawasmeh said in a statement.
Hamas Politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq, who is part of his party’s delegation in the Egyptian capital, wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday morning that Hamas “is pursuing, with desire and determination, a real national reconciliation with our brothers and partners in the homeland.”
While Hamas and Fatah have said they want to reunite the Palestinian territories, they have to overcome a number of obstacles to do that.
Over the past week, the parties have expressed divergent views about the future of Gaza’s security.
PA President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian television last week that he would not accept a scenario in which Hamas’s armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, kept control of its weapons.
Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Egyptian television a day later that while his party would not cede control of its weapons, it would be prepared to make joint decisions with Fatah about when and how to use them.
In previous reconciliation attempts, Hamas and Fatah failed to reach agreements on Gaza’s security arrangements.
Another major challenge to restoring the unity of the West Bank and Gaza is the issue of the Hamas-appointed employees in the Gaza Strip.
Since taking over Gaza in 2007, Hamas has appointed 40,000 employees to work in Gaza’s ministries. The PA does not recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas-appointed employees and has tens of thousands of its own employees in the Strip, who have not worked for the past 10 years.
While Hamas wants its 40,000 employees added to the PA payroll, the PA has said in previous reconciliation attempts it cannot afford to absorb most of them and would like its employees in Gaza to go back to work.
The PA government cabinet said on Tuesday that if Hamas and Fatah achieve an agreement in Cairo, it is prepared to take full responsibility for Gaza, the official PA news site Wafa reported.
According to Qawasmeh, the talks in Cairo are slated to last for three days, but could be extended depending on the progress made.
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