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Fatah, Hamas agree to let PA take control in Gaza

Sept. 25, 2014 4:47 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 27, 2014 3:25 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached a "comprehensive" agreement Thursday for the return of their unity government in Gaza after two days of talks in Cairo, negotiators from both sides said.

Egyptian sources told Ma'an that the two movements had been able to reach an agreement on a number of major points of contention, including the Palestinian Authority take over of the crossing into Egypt at Rafah and the adjacent Philadelphia corridor along the border.

In addition, the sources said that agreement had been reached on the issues of activating the Palestinian Authority's rule and authority in Gaza, the payment of former Hamas employees' salaries, and making decisions related to war and peace.

The Egyptian side led by minister of Egyptian intelligence services Muhammad Tuhami, told all parties that the ongoing Palestinian disputes will "carry away the fate of the indirect talks with Israel" and that quick solutions must be reached to unite Palestinians.

Sources added that the agreement will be announced in a press conference later Thursday and will conclude all the terms that were agreed upon.

The Palestinian rival movements set up a unity government of independents in June but it never took hold amid intense Israeli pressure, including a massive arrest campaign across the West Bank that left hundreds of Hamas members languishing in jail as well as the more than 5-day assault on Gaza that left more than 2,000 dead.

In recent weeks, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of running a "parallel" administration as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas in turn accused Abbas of neglecting Gaza and of not paying its 45,000 employees in Gaza.

Senior Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzouk and Fatah's head of delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, confirmed that an agreement had been reached after two days of talks in Cairo.

The talks were crucial for internal Palestinian divisions to be set aside and to agree on a unified strategy during talks with Israeli negotiators in October.

The October talks, under Egyptian mediation, are aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire after the more than 50-day war between Israel and Hamas.

The war killed more than 2,150 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

It ended on August 26 when the two sides agreed in Cairo on a ceasefire and to hold future talks on Palestinian demands to end an eight-year blockade of Gaza and exchange prisoners in Israeli jails for the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.

'All issues tackled'

Hamas and Fatah talks were also crucial ahead of an international donor conference on October 12, to be hosted by Cairo, on the reconstruction of Gaza.

The July-August war caused a vast amount of destruction to homes and infrastructure in densely populated Gaza, leaving more than 110,000 Palestinians homeless, according to the United Nations.

"The unity government will supervise the crossings (into Gaza) ... to facilitate the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip," Abu Marzouk said.

He said the two factions agreed to creating a mechanism for construction material to pass in to Gaza.

The two movements have also found a "solution .. to the problem of employees," Abu Marzuk said, referring to the Hamas accusations that the Palestinian Authority had not paid Gaza government employees.

"This meeting was essential because it tackled all the issues and hindrances that obstructed reaching an agreement," he said, referring to a reconciliation deal inked in April.

The April deal was inked to end years of bitter rivalry between the Fatah faction of Abbas, which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for the past seven years.

Following the deal, the rivals set up a government of independents, the first united administration in seven years, which took office in early June.

But sharp divisions quickly emerged over the control of Gaza, where the Hamas government formally stepped down on June 2 but remained the de facto power.

Abbas accused Hamas of operating a "shadow government" and threatened to end the unity deal unless the group allowed the new government to function properly.

AFP contributed to this report.
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