Published: Sun, September 17, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Palestine's Hamas ready for talks with Fatah, elections

Palestine's Hamas ready for talks with Fatah, elections

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the talks with Egypt will focus on alleviating the blockade and mending a longstanding rift with rival group Fatah, headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"There will be no meetings or dialogues" until Hamas announces the dissolution of its governing body in the Gaza Strip and enables the Palestinian Authority government to assume responsibility in its place, Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad told official PA radio.

Hamas said it had dissolved a contentious administrative committee that runs Gaza, invited Abbas' government to return to Gaza and was ready to hold new elections.

Attempts to reconcile the two and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have repeatedly failed.

The takeover led to rival governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Abbas in charge of autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The two sides have made several attempts at reconciliation.

In a statement issued overnight, Hamas said it was "responding to the generous Egyptian efforts, which reflect the Egyptian desire to end the split and achieve reconciliation, and based on our desire to achieve national unity".

Egypt has also become more involved in Gaza in recent months as it tries to contain militant attacks centered in the Sinai peninsula, which borders the Palestinian territory and southern Israel.

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.

Punishing measures included reducing electricity payments for the Gaza strip and cutting salaries for civil servants there.

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

Still, it's not clear whether Hamas will brush away a formidable obstacle to reconciliation by putting its security forces under Abbas's control. There also was no comment from Abbas' government.

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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