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Palestinian Authority reportedly to hold next week’s cabinet meeting in Gaza

Sept. 25, 2017 8:01 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 26, 2017 5:30 P.M.)
The Palestinian Authority cabinet in Ramallah (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) is set to hold its next weekly cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip, PA-owned Wafa news agency reported Monday, saying it was a "sign indicating improvement in relations between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas," which comes a week after Hamas, Gaza's de facto ruling party, pledged to dissolve its administrative committee that runs the coastal enclave.

According to Wafa, PA government spokesman Yousef al-Mahmoud said PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah made the decision to hold next week's cabinet meeting in Gaza after consulting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mahmoud reportedly said the prime minister and cabinet ministers will arrive in the Gaza Strip next Monday to "assume their duties," after Hamas called on the Fatah-led PA to do so to pave the way for reconciliation talks. The cabinet meeting is expected to be held the next day on Tuesday.

Hussein Sheikh, a member of the Fatah Central Committee and head of its Department of Civil Affairs, also said the government will go to the Gaza Strip next Monday following instructions by Abbas. The Civil Affairs is in charge of coordinating with Israel the movement of the cabinet ministers between Ramallah, the de facto seat of the Palestinian government in the occupied West Bank, and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The cabinet said after its last meeting that the PA government has “prepared plans to handle all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip and will carry out its duties towards Palestinians in Gaza and lessen their suffering.”

The Hamas movement announced last week it dissolved its administrative committee -- formed earlier this year to the outrage of the PA, agrees to hold general elections for the first time since 2006, enter talks with Fatah, and allow the national reconciliation government to operate in Gaza.

Hamas said the decision came in response to recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt to reconcile the rival factions, while Abbas has been calling on Hamas to relinquish control of the small territory to the PA.

PA presidential adviser for international affairs, Nabil Shaath, previously said Monday that once Hamdallah is in Gaza and his government starts to run the various departments, the next step would be meetings between Fatah, Hamas, and other political factions to start laying out the ground rules to actual reunification and resolving all outstanding issues.

The PA official however said the 2011 reconciliation agreement "had full details in dealing with all issues, including the staff Hamas has hired to run the Gaza institutions following the boycott by the Palestinian Authority employees, and that all that is expected to be done is how to start enforcing it on the ground."

In recent months, the PA has been accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe -- by slashing funding for Israeli fuel, medicine, and salaries for civil servants and former prisoners -- in order to pressure Hamas to give up control of Gaza.

After Hamas agreed to comply with Abbas' key demands, Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said that Abbas must now “cancel all punitive measures that have been taken against Palestinians in Gaza,” requesting that Abbas and the Fatah movement allow the PA government to undertake all of its responsibilities in the Gaza Strip “without any procrastination.”

Hamas leader Abed al-Rahman Shadid has meanwhile called on the PA to put an end to carrying out “political arrests” in the occupied West Bank and release all detainees now that Hamas had dissolved the administrative committee and agreed the PA’s conditions for reconciliation.

Hamas has long accused the PA of executing a plan to "eradicate" the movement from the West Bank by escalating security coordination with Israeli authorities through politically-motivated arrests, and “adopting a revolving door policy" funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons.

Hamas and the Fatah-led PA have been embroiled in a more than a decade-long conflict since 2006, when Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections and a bloody conflict between the two groups broke out.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding of long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

Meanwhile, a public opinion poll released by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research on Tuesday showed that two-thirds of Palestinians demand the resignation of Abbas and half of the public views the Palestinian Authority as a burden on the Palestinian people.

The poll further showed that if a new presidential elections were held today and only Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Abbas were nominated, the former would receive 50 percent of the vote and the latter 42 percent of the vote -- compared to 45 percent each three months ago.
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