Taking a major step towards handing control of Gaza to a Palestinian unity government, Hamas has agreed to dissolve the administration that runs the enclave after a decade of bitter rivalry with President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza since a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007, said it had taken “a courageous, serious and patriotic decision to dissolve the administrative committee” that runs the territory of 2m people, and hand power to some form of unity government.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, reunification a decade after Hamas and Abbas’s secular Fatah movement battled for control of Gaza may hinge on whether complex issues related to power-sharing, which stymied reconciliation bids in the past, can be resolved.
Abbas welcomed Hamas’ move, which is a result of talks mediated by Egypt, and said he would convene the Palestinian leadership for discussions upon his return from New York where he was attending the UN General Assembly.
The development would “enable the formation of a national reconciliation government to work in the Gaza Strip and hold… elections,” he said in a statement on official news agency WAFA.
Earlier, a Palestinian government spokesman said Cairo’s mediation had presented a “historic opportunity” that could help Palestinians toward full statehood.
But Fatah said it still needed clarification from Hamas on the handing over of government ministries in Gaza and control of the enclave’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation administration but could not agree on the details. A unity government formed after Hamas won the last Palestinian general election, in 2006, was short-lived.
According to The Associated Press, it is not yet clear whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under Abbas’s control. This has been a major sticking point in the past.
It has been a key demand of President Abbas and his Fatah faction that Hamas dissolve the administrative committee that it set up in March. It is seen as a rival government to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the BBC reported that, in recent months amid deepening political divisions, Abbas has piled pressure on Hamas, taking some controversial steps such as reducing electricity payments for Gaza.
Egypt has long acted as a go-between to try to end the damaging rift between the two main Palestinian factions.
Hamas as a whole, or in some cases its military wing, is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, UK and other powers.
Since 2007, Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza in an attempt to prevent attacks by Gaza-based militants.