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Hamas says ready to hand Gaza to Palestinian unity government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chairs the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee meeting in Ramallah recently. (AFP)
AMMAN: Hamas on Sunday said it has agreed to dismantle the administration that runs Gaza, a major step toward handing control of the enclave to a unity government after a decade of bitter rivalry with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007, said it had taken “a courageous, serious and patriotic decision to dissolve the administrative committee” that runs the territory of 2 million people, and hand power to a unity government.
“Hamas invites the government of national accord to come to Gaza to practice its mission and carry out its duties in the Gaza Strip immediately, and it accepts holding the general elections,” it said in a statement.
Reunification a decade after Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah movement battled for control of Gaza may hinge on whether complex issues related to power-sharing — which stymied reconciliation bids in the past — can be resolved.
The Fatah-led government based in the West Bank hailed the move, announced after Egyptian mediation, as “a step in the right direction.”
Cairo’s efforts had presented a “historic opportunity” that could lead to new Palestinian elections and ultimately statehood, a PA spokesman told the official news agency WAFA. But Fatah said it wants to see Hamas implement its pledges before making the next move.
Majed Aruri, executive director of the Ramallah-based Civil Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and Rule of Law, told Arab News: “We have to wait and see the results on the ground, because it’s difficult to believe Hamas will agree to give up power.”
Senior Associated Press reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh told Arab News: “I think the current chances of this latest effort by Egypt succeeding will be determined in the execution phase.”
Washington-based Palestinian researcher Mohammed Hussein told Arab News: “If we see Abbas go to Gaza and head a Cabinet meeting of a unity government, or when we see Palestinian presidential guards back in Rafah, then we can say it’s serious.”
The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed the news.
“All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement quoted by Reuters.
The UN is ready to assist talks in order to alleviate hardship in Gaza, Mladenov added, thanking Egypt for its “tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum.”
The reconciliation breakthrough came in part out of necessity on both sides. Hamas is under economic pressure due to PA measures such as halting electricity subsidies for Gaza.
The Palestinian government headed by Rami Hamdallah will hold its weekly meeting in Gaza on Tuesday, as a prelude to taking over full responsibility for daily affairs in Gaza, sources told Arab News.
WAFA reported that Abbas was pleased with the progress made in Cairo, and said that upon his return from New York he will hold a meeting of the Palestinian leadership.

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