Hamas, Fatah agree on return of unity government in Gaza
CAIRO, Egypt (UPDATED) – Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah said they reached an agreement on Thursday, September 25, for the return of their unity government in Gaza ahead of crucial negotiations with Israel next month.
The Palestinian rivals had set up a unity government of independents in June but it never took hold, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas accusing Hamas of running a "parallel" administration as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas in turn accused Abbas's Palestinian Authority, headquartered in Ramallah, of not paying its 45,000 employees in Gaza.
"Fatah and Hamas have reached a comprehensive agreement for the unity government to return to the Gaza Strip," Jibril Rajoub of Fatah told Agence France-Presse.
Senior Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuk and Fatah's head of delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, confirmed that an agreement had been reached after two days of talks in Cairo.
The talks were crucial for internal Palestinian divisions to be set aside and to agree on a unified strategy during talks with Israeli negotiators in October.
The October talks, under Egyptian mediation, are aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians after the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.
The war killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side. (TIMELINE: Israel-Gaza conflict)
It ended on August 26 when the two sides agreed in Cairo on a ceasefire and to hold future talks on Palestinian demands to end an eight-year blockade of Gaza and exchange prisoners in Israeli jails for the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.
Hamas and Fatah talks were also crucial ahead of an international donor conference on October 12, to be hosted by Cairo, on the reconstruction of Gaza.
The July-August war caused a vast amount of destruction to homes and infrastructure in densely populated Gaza, leaving more than 100,000 Palestinians homeless in the long term, according to the United Nations.
A reconciliation deal was inked in April to end years of bitter rivalry between the Fatah faction of Abbas, that dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and the
Islamist movement Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for the past 7 years.
Following the deal, the rivals set up a government of independents, the first united administration in seven years, which took office in early June.
But sharp divisions quickly emerged over the control of Gaza, where the Hamas government formally stepped down on June 2 but remained the de facto power.
Abbas accused Hamas of operating a "shadow government" and threatened to end the unity deal unless the Islamists allow the new government to function properly there. – Rappler.com