Sunday, 22 October, 2017

Israeli PM rejects Palestinian reconciliation 'unless Hamas disarms'

Palestinian PM arrives in Gaza, first visit since 2015 Hamas reconciles with Palestinian Authority in Gaza
Bennie Garza | 04 October, 2017, 02:05

Hamas's reversal is the most significant step towards Palestinian reconciliation since the unity government was formed in 2014.

Since Hamas' takeover of the Gaza strip in 2007, the Palestinians' ambitions for statehood have been thwarted not least by their own inability to form a united government.

Hundreds of people packed streets waving flags and cheering as Mr Hamdallah's convoy arrived in Gaza on Monday, his first such visit in two years.

Hamdallah is expected to preside over a meeting of the Palestinian government on Tuesday held at the residence of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. "The State of Palestine and the Solomon Islands are now INTERPOL member countries", Interpol said on Twitter.

A first sign of discontent surfaced on Tuesday with Hamas criticising Abbas' decision to await the outcome of talks Fateh plans to hold with the group on October 10 before lifting sanctions he has imposed on Gaza.

"The reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is a blame game - this what we call an attempt to blame each other on why it is not successful", he said, citing the public disagreement between Abbas and Hamas over the later retaining its weapons.

The logistics of the three-day visit were themselves an indication of divisions and challenges.

Hamas last month finally agreed to the PA's return to Gaza, under pressure from the enclave's powerful neighbour Egypt. The latter had stopped paying the invoice for electricity provided by Israel to Gaza.

Hamas hopes to convince Egypt to ease its border restrictions, which, along with the isolation of key regional ally Qatar, have left the Islamists weak.

He promised the government would focus on rebuilding Gaza from the devastation incurred from Israeli bombardments in the 2014 war and work to improve living conditions hampered by a decade of Israeli and Egyptian partial blockade.

The sides are to begin negotiations next week in Cairo.

Abu Musa Hamduna, a 42-year-old Gazan, welcomes the return of central government.

Hamas' supreme leader says his group will not give up its weapons, a vow that is sure to complicate reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah movement.

Despite the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah, a number of issues are yet to be resolved.

In response Hamas said Israel was the primary beneficiary of the division.

However, if the PA agrees to a role for Hamas in running Gaza or to Hamas retaining their capacity to strike against Israel, Abbas can be sure that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will accuse him of being an accomplice of a terrorist organization. "We will be faced with obstacles and challenges, but our people are able to rise again from among destruction and suffering", said Mr Hamdallah.

"The administration of President Donald Trump may be very friendly to Israel, but unfortunately that has not changed anything in the negative attitude on Israeli construction".

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