Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

Palestinian militants of Al-Nasser Salah Al-Deen Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, take part in a training exercise in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 21 September 2017
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Hamas paves way for reconciliation with Fatah, but obstacles remain

GAZA CITY: Hamas’ dismantling of its governing body in the Gaza Strip may pave the way for reconciliation with its rival Fatah, but there are tough issues ahead.
Rami Nuredeen, 44, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) employee who was ordered to stay home since Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, said he is “optimistic” that he will return to work following a reconciliation deal.
“I want to be like any public personnel in the world, going to work in the morning and receiving a full salary at the end of the month,” said Nuredeen, who used to be a police officer.
The issue of public employees appointed before and after 2007 was the main obstacle in previous reconciliation attempts between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday reiterated his party’s readiness for Palestinian reconciliation.
On Sunday, the hard-line group said it was willing to accept a series of demands by Fatah and backed plans for new elections.
Chief among the Egyptian-brokered concessions was dissolving the so-called administration committee, seen as a rival government to the PA administration in the West Bank.
“The administrative committee in Gaza is no longer functioning. We’re ready now to receive the national consensus government to enter Gaza,” Haniyeh told a news conference at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
“We’re ready to return in a few days to Cairo to resume dialogue,” he said, adding that he is “committed to the success” of reconciliation.
On Monday, he spoke with PA President Mahmoud Abbas for the first time in nearly a year, and Fatah officials said they expect Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to visit Gaza in the coming days.
Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met in New York on Monday on the fringes of the UN General Assembly.
“The test will be the full transfer of management of Gaza’s affairs to the Palestinian government, and the cancelation of all the steps Hamas has taken, including collecting taxes, controlling the border crossings and more,” said Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee.
The PA said its Cabinet will meet in a few days to draft a plan to manage Gaza’s affairs. The question is how much Hamas will allow it to do so.
The parties have avoided addressing the remaining issues of contention, such as the future of Hamas’ military wing.
Hamas, and especially its new Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, have begun talking about emulating Lebanon’s system, in which Hezbollah maintains a powerful military wing while serving in the Cabinet. The PA, in contrast, wants Hamas to disarm at some point.
The US peace envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, said the international community must work to ensure the handover of Gaza to the PA.
He accused Hamas of abusing Gazans, adding: “The time has come to stop watching the situation in Gaza and start changing it.”
Mustafa Ibrahim, a Palestinian columnist in Gaza, said: “The PA announcement was vague. It said it’s ready to take control of Gaza, but it didn’t say when and how.”
He added: “We’ll see a clear vision after Abbas’ meeting with US President Donald Trump in New York.”


Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

Updated 27 min 45 sec ago
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Libya rivals clash south of capital, causing blackouts

  • Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport
  • Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the country

TRIPOLI: New clashes flared between rival militias south of Libya’s capital Tripoli on Tuesday, causing widespread power outages, the national electricity firm said.
The fighting underscored the fragility of a United Nations-backed cease-fire reached earlier this month after days of deadly violence between armed groups in the capital, beset by turmoil since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Tuesday morning’s clashes centered on the main road to Tripoli’s long-closed international airport, according to witnesses including an AFP journalist.
Libya’s National Electricity Company said its network had been damaged, causing a total blackout across the North African nation’s south and west.
Fighting which broke out late last month killed at least 63 people and wounded 159 others — mostly civilians — before the cease-fire came into effect on September 4.
Last week, the capital’s only working airport came under rocket fire just days after reopening following the truce.
Mitiga International Airport, located in a former military base that includes a prison, is currently controlled by the Special Deterrence Forces, a Salafist militia which serves as Tripoli’s police force and has been involved in clashes around the capital.
Interior Minister Abdessalam Ashour said Monday that a “regular force” would be tasked with securing the airport.
UN envoy Ghassan Salame later reported 14 cease-fire violations around Tripoli, but sought to play them down, saying the deal had been “generally respected.”
Tripoli’s main airport has been out of action since it was severely damaged by similar clashes in 2014.
Since Qaddafi’s fall in 2011, oil-rich Libya has been rocked by violence between dozens of armed groups vying for control of its cities and vast oil resources.
A UN-brokered agreement signed in Morocco in December 2015 established the Government of National Accord (GNA) in a bid to ease the chaos.
But deep divisions remain between the GNA and rivals including military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who is based in eastern Libya and backs a competing authority.
The GNA last week announced a series of measures to secure the capital and curb the influence of militias over state institutions and banks.