Leaders of several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and the ruling Fatah faction, are scheduled to hold a one-day conference in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Sunday at the invitation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (who also heads Fatah). At the conference, the Palestinian leaders will discuss ways of achieving national unity and the latest developments in the Palestinian arena.
Abbas is also hoping to persuade Hamas to join a new Palestinian unity government that would end the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Last week, Abbas met in Ankara, Turkey, with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and discussed with him ways of achieving “national reconciliation” between Fatah and Hamas.
A similar meeting of the faction leaders held in 2020 via video conference failed to end the differences between the groups. Then, representatives of 14 factions in Ramallah and the Lebanese capital of Beirut participated in the conference, which ended with a joint communique strongly denouncing the Israeli government and the US administration. The communique also affirmed the Palestinian people’s “right to practice all forms of legitimate struggle [against Israel] and activate the comprehensive popular resistance as the appropriate option for this phase.”
Palestinian officials said they did not expect a breakthrough from Sunday’s conference, especially in wake of the wide gap between Fatah and Hamas. They said that Hamas is unlikely to accept Abbas’s conditions for joining a unity government, which include recognizing United Nations resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict and the agreements signed between the PLO and Israel. Hamas fears that accepting these conditions would be interpreted as recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
Abbas issued the invitation earlier this month during an emergency meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah to discuss Israel’s large-scale military operation in Jenin Refugee Camp. Abbas was scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Saturday and hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ahead of the conference.
Three Palestinian factions – Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command (PFLP-GC), and As-Sa’iqa (also known as Vanguard of the People’s War of Liberation) – announced that they would boycott the conference in protest of the PA’s security crackdown on Palestinian militants in the West Bank. PIJ has accused the PA security forces of arresting a number of its members in the West Bank over the past two weeks.
Despite the crackdown, Hamas accepted the invitation to attend the conference, much to the dismay of PIJ and the other factions that decided to stay away.
On the eve of the conference, the PA security forces arrested six more Palestinians affiliated with PIJ and Hamas in Nablus and Jenin, Palestinian sources said. Among those arrested is Munther al-Nabulsi, a cousin of Ibrahim al-Nabulsi, a prominent gunman from Nablus who was killed by the Israeli security forces in August 2022.
According to the sources, the PA security forces have arrested at least 63 Palestinians belonging to various Palestinian factions over the past three weeks.
Those not attending or boycotting the Cairo conference
PIJ Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhaleh said last week that his group would not attend the Cairo parley unless the PA security forces released all the militants were arrested in the West Bank.
Louay al-Qaryouti, a senior official with the PFLP-GC, said his group decided to boycott the conference after the PA rejected calls to release the “political detainees.” He said it was “inconceivable that there would be a Palestinian national dialogue while the Palestinian Authority was carrying out political arrests of resistance fighters resisting the occupation in the West Bank.”
Muhyiddin Abu Daqqa, a representative of As-Sa’iqa, also said his group would not participate in the Cairo gathering in protest of the PA crackdown on PIJ members in the West Bank. Abu Daqqa told the PIJ’s Palestine Today website that his group is opposed to any “political arrests by the Palestinian Authority against resistance fighters.” Such arrests, he said, “only serve the interest of the Zionist enemy.”