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PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (left) shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on October 2..(Photo by: IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA / REUTERS)
Hamas announces Palestinian unity deal with rival Fatah
The two groups met in Cairo Thursday afternoon.
CAIRO - Palestinian rival factions Hamas and Fatah have reached a deal over political reconciliation, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement on Thursday without providing further details.

Representatives of Fatah and Hamas publicly celebrated the reconciliation agreement between the two groups at a Cairo press conference Thursday afternoon. 

The two factions have agreed to hand over responsibility for the Rafah border crossing in Gaza to the unity government on November 1, two sources said Thursday.

The crossing agreement was part of a broader reconciliation deal brokered by Egypt and signed in Cairo Thursday by the two Palestinian delegations.

They also agreed to complete the handover of administrative control of Gaza to a unity government by December 1, a statement from Egypt's state information service said.

Details of the meeting have not yet been released.

"Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement at dawn today upon a generous Egyptian sponsorship," Haniyeh said in a statement before the press conference.

Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmeh said Tuesday 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.

Some three weeks ago, Hamas announced its readiness to hand responsibility for Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority.

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.

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.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the PA in 2007 from the territory.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this article.
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