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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)
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.”

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