Fatah and Hamas — A decade of strained ties

A Palestinian man waves the flags of Egypt and Palestine as people gather in Gaza City to celebrate after rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt on Thursday, October 12, 2017. (AFP / MOHAMMED ABED)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Fatah and Hamas — A decade of strained ties

GAZA CITY: The Hamas-Fatah split, which has at times erupted into deadly conflict, has seen rival administrations run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and by President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Here is a look back at the history of the dispute:
• In 2006, the leaders of Hamas take part in elections to the Palestinian Parliament for the first time, sweeping to a landslide victory over Fatah, which had dominated it since it was established.
A unity government is installed with Hamas taking key posts but it is dogged by International demands, rejected by the hard-liners, that they renounce violence and recognize Israel and past peace deals.
• In early 2007, simmering tensions between the rival factions erupt into bloody clashes in Gaza.
After a week of violence in June, Abbas dismisses the unity government and declares a state of emergency in the territory.
But Hamas fighters rout pro-Abbas forces and take control, a move the president calls a coup.
• In April 2011, Fatah and Hamas say they have reached an understanding to create an interim government to prepare for elections, but implementation is repeatedly delayed.
In January 2012, the rivals strike a prisoner exchange agreement. The following month, they agree that Abbas should lead an interim government, but the deal is disputed within Hamas and never implemented.
• In April 2014, the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas finally agree on a unity government.
It is sworn in on June 2 but fails to exercise authority over Gaza where Abbas accuses Hamas of setting up a parallel administration.
In July-August 2014, the factions put up a united front after Israel launches a 50-day blitz against Gaza in response to rocket fire, but the unity government falls apart months later.
• In May 2017, Hamas makes a major revision to its founding charter, easing its stance on Israel after having long called for its destruction.
The group says its struggle is not against Jews but against Israel as an occupier, and accepts the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.
The group — which remains blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU as well as Israel — is seen as seeking to ease its isolation without marginalizing hard-liners in its ranks.
• Tensions persist over the formation by Hamas of an “administrative committee” in Gaza which is seen as a rival Palestinian government.
Abbas puts the squeeze on Hamas including by cutting payments for electricity supplies to the territory.
An Egyptian-led reconciliation push receives a major boost when Hamas agrees on Sept. 17 to dissolve the committee and cede civil power, saying it is ready for talks on a new unity government and elections.
• In early October, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visits Gaza for the first time since 2015.
His ministers take formal control of government departments in the territory.
• On Oct. 10, the two factions open detailed reconciliation talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo.
On Oct. 12, the two sides announce they have reached a deal.
• Fatah says Abbas will visit Gaza within a month and sanctions he had imposed on the territory will soon be lifted.
Some 3,000 Palestinian Authority police officers are to redeploy to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team says.
But the two sides remain sharply at odds over the future of Hamas’s 25,000-strong armed wing, which the Gaza leaders say is non-negotiable.


Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

Updated 18 September 2018
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Iraq’s Shiite rivals agree on prime minister

  • Veteran Shiite politician Adel Abdul Mahdi informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi
  • Decision reached after extensive negotiations between pro and anti-Iran factions

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s rival Shiite blocs in parliament have agreed on who they want as the next prime minister after making progress in negotiations towards forming a government, negotiators told Arab News.

The two factions, one pro Iran and the other anti, have agreed to work together as a coalition, negotiators told Arab News on Tuesday.

The veteran Shiite politician and former vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi was informally nominated to replace Haider Al-Abadi, negotiators said. 

He will be assigned on Sept. 25 to form a government if his nomination is approved by the Kurdish blocs. 

Before the appointment of prime minister, the president has to be selected. There is no indication that the Kurds, who get the post according to the Iraq’s power sharing agreement, have decided on who to nominate. 

Iraq’s parliament has been split between the Reform alliance and Al-Binna’a alliance after elections in May.

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READ MORE: Iraq parliament elects Sunni lawmaker Al-Halbousi as speaker, breaking deadlock

Rival Iraqi factions make coalition deal and end Al-Abadi’s prime minister hopes

Rival Shiite factions trade blame for who drove the burning of buildings in Basra

Iran accused of hijacking Basra protests after a week of violence that shook Iraq

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Reform is controlled by Muqtada Al-Sadr, one of the country’s most influential Shiite clerics who opposes Iranian influence in the country.

Iran-backed Al-Binna’a is led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the head of Badr organization, the most prominent Shiite armed faction.

At the first parliamentary session earlier this month, both coalitions claimed they have the most number of seats which would give them the right to form a government.

Within hours, violent demonstrations erupted in Basra, Iraq’s main oil hub, killing 15 demonstrators and injuring scores of people. The Iranian consulate was set on fire along with dozens of government and party buildings.

The violence on the street reflected the stand-off in parliament and threatened to erupt into fighting between the armed wings associated with the different Shiite groups.

The agreement between the two blocs was the only way to end the violence and prevent a slide into intra-Shiite  fighting, senior leaders involved in the talks said.

Several meetings between Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri were held in Al-Sadr’s residency in the holy city of Najaf last week to defuse the crisis.

Both parties’ desire for a truce seemed clear on Saturday at a parliament session to elect the speaker and his deputies. The two blocks showed their influence without colliding with each other. Al-Binna’a presented its candidate for the speaker post and stepped down after winning to make way for the Reform bloc to present its candidate for the post of first deputy of the speaker without competition.

The negotiations teams continued their meetings over the following days to agree on the details of the government program and select the nominee for the prime minister among the dozens of candidates presented by the forces belonging to the two alliances.

The first results of talks between the two blocs came out on Tuesday when Al-Amiri withdrew from the race “to open doors for more talks,” and avoid  conflict between the alliances.

“We will not talk on behalf of Al-Binna’a or the Reform. We both will agree on a candidate. Compatibility is our only choice,” Al-Amiri, said at a press conference in Baghdad.

“Today, Iraq needs to be saved, as we saved it from Daesh, so we have only two options, either we choose to impose the wills and twist each others arms or choose the understanding between us.”

 Iraq has been a battleground for regional and international powers, especially Iran and the United States, since 2003 US-led invasion. 

Brett McGurk, the US envoy to Iraq and Syria, and General Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran's Al Quds Force, are deeply involved in the negotiations. 

The candidate for prime minister should also enjoy the blessing of the religious powers in Najaf, represented by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the Shiite spiritual leader and most revered figure in Iraq, negotiators said.

“The situation is complicated as there are three different sides that enjoy the right to use veto. They are Iran, US and Najaf,” a key negotiator of Al-Sadr’s negotiation team told Arab News.

“One ‘no’ is enough to exclude any candidate. Not only that, Sadr and Amiri also have their conditions and we still have difficulty reconciling all of them.”

The marathon negotiations, which run every day until late at night, finally reached a shortlist for prime minister.

The three names reached were Adel Abdul Mahdi, a former leader of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, Falih Al-Fayadh, the former national security adviser, and Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the head of the intelligence service.

Adel Abdul Mahdi was the chosen one, three negotiators from different sides told Arab News.

“We have agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi as he is the only one who was approved by the three sides (Iran, the US and Najaf),” an Al-Sadr negotiator told Arab News.