Negotiators from Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank said on Thursday morning that they had reached an agreement to reconcile the two rival Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.
The Egypt-mediated talks were aimed at bringing together Islamist group Hamas and secular party Fatah, which rule Gaza and the West Bank respectively. Hamas has been forced to cede power in the Strip to the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, after Abbas told Israel to cut already-low power supplies to Gaza.
Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2006 and ruled in a unity government with Fatah until violence between the two groups a year later effectively dissolved their joint working. In the last decade, there have been several unsuccessful bid to reconcile them, all of which were hailed a success at first.
A spokesman for Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said: “An agreement was reached today between Hamas and Fatah under Egyptian sponsorship.”
A Fatah spokesman said Abbas’s sanctions against Hamas would soon be lifted, and that Abbas himself would visit the Strip “within a month,” following the visit of Abbas’s prime minister Rami Hamdallah this summer.
It is far from clear that relations between Fatah and Hamas are good enough to begin joint working, however, after Fatah officials urged Israel to cut power supplies to the isolated Strip, reducing residents to four hours’ of electricity per day.
While Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisis, a former military chief, is known to despise political Islam, Egyptian intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi is believed to have argued forcefully for Egypt to lead on Palestinian reconciliation, and has followed the talks closely.
Yet while Hamas may be willing to submit control of civilian governance in Gaza, it is highly unlikely to sign over control of its 25,000-strong military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas as a whole is listed as a terrorist organisation in Europe and the United States.