Hamas agrees to relinquish control of Gaza

The Guardian reports: The two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, have reached a “comprehensive” agreement that would turn over the civil administration of Gaza immediately to officials of a Palestinian unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

The agreement, negotiated in Cairo, is designed to ease the long blockade of Gaza by Israel and Egypt and open the way to reconstruction of the war-ravaged coastal entity. A recent Palestinian Authority study estimated the cost of reconstruction in Gaza following this summer’s 50-day conflict with Israel at $7.8bn (£4.8bn).

Palestinian officials said the agreement would allow the Palestinian Authority to take control over the border crossings of the Gaza Strip, including the crucial Rafah crossing into Egypt – a key demand of Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

According to sources in Egypt close to the talks, Palestinian Authority security forces would also control the Philadelphia corridor, a key strip adjoining the border with Egypt.

Officials from the rival factions began meeting in Cairo on Wednesday to try to overcome their differences and strengthen their hand for talks with Israel slated for late next month.

The breakthrough deal would formally bring an end to Hamas’s seven-year long rule of Gaza, during which time it has fought three wars with Israel. Hamas asserted its control over the Gaza Strip in 2007 after winning Palestinian legislative elections the year before.

“Fatah and Hamas have reached a comprehensive agreement for the unity government to return to the Gaza Strip,” said Jibril Rajoub, a senior official in Fatah.

Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk and Fatah’s head of delegation, Azam al-Ahmad, later confirmed a deal had been reached, the details of which are expected to be formally announced later on Thursday. [Continue reading…]

Middle East Eye adds: Thursday’s announcement is the second such agreement on a unity government to be reached in under a year, and there are already signs of disunity within the warring camps.

Less than an hour after publicly celebrating the deal, Hamas spokesperson Izzat al-Risheq shared the doubts of Palestinians regarding the agreement and its implementation.

“We want action not words”, he wrote on his Facebook page. “This is the most frequent comment I have heard after the agreement between Hamas and Fatah. These people are right: they have already seen so many agreements, and not a thing has changed.”

Chris Doyle [director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding] told MEE that there are also divisions within Fatah.

“Even if there is agreement at leadership level, there remain plenty of other parties within Hamas and Fatah, as well as the Israeli authorities, who will oppose this.

“It’s one thing to sign up to a deal and for leaders to say that this will happen. It’s quite another to implement it on the ground. There is still precious little trust between [Fatah and Hamas].”

Sam Bahour, a West Bank-based businessman and political analyst, agrees, citing the weakness of both Fatah and Hamas.

“In any real political system both of these failed parties would be laughed out of office.”

While Doyle warns that the deal will be “tough to implement” on the ground, he says that unity is essential after the 51-day war that caused huge loss of life and damage to basic infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

“There is really only one way forward for Palestinians to try to resolve the crisis in Gaza. The level of destruction that was meted out over that 51-day Israeli operation means that they need to engage in a very serious reconstruction programme. They need to get this unity agreement in place so they can open up the borders and get building materials in. The domestic pressure within Gaza is utterly huge; people are desperate. Ultimately, there is no other option than a unified approach.” [Continue reading…]

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