(photo credit: REUTERS)
In his first visit to the Gaza Strip in more than two years, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on all Palestinians on Monday to embrace the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah and overcome factional differences.
Hamdallah and a large delegation of PA ministers and officials arrived in Gaza on Monday in a bid to start work on ending the territorial division between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. After the PA officials passed through the Erez Crossing at around noon, thousands of Gazans greeted them in excitement.
“I call on everyone without exception to embrace the leadership, reconciliation and national unity, and to put our national interest above all narrow party considerations and interests,” Hamdallah told a press conference while speaking on a small and overcrowded stage, squeezed between Palestinian officials and a security detail.
Since Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the Gaza Strip in 2007, the two rival parties have essentially established two governments: a Hamas-run government in Gaza and a Fatah-run government in the West Bank. However, Hamas announced the dissolution of its governing body in Gaza two weeks ago and invited the PA to take its place.
Hamdallah suggested that if reconciliation succeeded, the Palestinians would gain greater international support for their positions.
“The world will not stand by the side of a torn and divided people regardless of the justice of its issue or the legitimacy of its rights,” he stated.
The Quartet, a body consisting of representatives of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia, said last Thursday that reunification of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under the PA would “unlock international support for Gaza’s growth, stability and prosperity.”
A senior Palestinian official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that while he believed the Palestinians were on the path to reconciliation, they still had many obstacles to overcome.
“We still have... a number of issues to work out,” the official said on Sunday.
Palestinian Authority Rami Hamdallah PM hopes to set new parameters for peace with Israel.
According to the official, the PA, Fatah and Hamas initially plan to discuss the transfer of Gaza’s civil affairs to the PA. He added that if the parties reach an agreement on civil affairs, they would try to reach a deal on Gaza’s security – something on which they have been totally divided.
While the PA and Fatah want to take full security control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas has said it will not negotiate the disarming of its armed wing, which analyst say consists of 25,000 members.
Following the press conference, Hamdallah, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh and Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas official for the Gaza Strip, shared lunch at the Gaza home of a Fatah Central Committee member.
Photos of the lunch posted on social media showed the senior PA and Hamas officials sitting next to each other.
Later on Monday, Hamdallah also visited Mufid Abu Kheir, whose home was recently rebuilt after being destroyed in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge.
On Tuesday, the PA government is scheduled to host its weekly cabinet meeting in the Council of Ministers’ Headquarters, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s former house in Gaza City.Reuters contributed to this report.