Hamas agrees to steps towards Palestinian unity

Cheryl Sanders
September 17, 2017

Hamas announced on Sunday that it has dissolved its administration of the Gaza strip, and would be prepared to commence talks with Fatah on holding general elections and forming a unity government.

Egypt has been brokering talks with Fatah to implement a deal signed in 2011 in Cairo with Hamas to end their dispute and form an interim government before elections.

Since Hamas ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007, Hamas and Fatah have essentially established two separate governments, one Hamas-run government in Gaza and another PA-led government in the West Bank.

Attempts by the groups to form a unity government in Gaza and the West Bank since then have failed.

This latest effort comes at a time when Gaza's economy is a shambles, battered by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, three wars with Israel, and Abbas's decision earlier this year to reduce funding for electricity in an effort to put additional pressure on Hamas. Last blow: ostracized by its arab neighbors of Qatar, main financier of islamist movement in palestine.

The Hamas capitulation follows months of repression on the part of the Palestinian Authority, which deprived the Gaza Strip f electric power.

But Egyptian reports said a Fatah delegation was in Egypt on Saturday to discuss a possible reconciliation.

Abbas, now in NY for the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, has yet to comment on Hamas's announcement.

The move also comes after a series of Palestinian Authority measures created to pressure Hamas, including reduction of electricity in Gaza and cutting of salaries.

However, he wondered if "Hamas committee is the only obstacle for reaching full reconciliation and ending internal division", saying that he is "personally consciously optimistic", because there are many questions that need answers.

The Gaza Strip, a coastal enclave of some two million people, has faced deteriorating humanitarian conditions, with a severe electricity crisis and a lack of clean water, among other issues.

The unemployment rate now stands at 42 percent in Gaza, infrastructure for water and electricity do not meet its residents' basic needs and half of the population relies on humanitarian aid.

Israel's increasing restrictions on exit permits for Gaza residents, an escalating sewage crisis that is contaminating the strip's beaches, and high levels of unemployment, are all contributing to a mounting sense of exhaustion in the strip.

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