Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal brokered by Egypt last week, after Hamas agreed to hand over administrative control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by 1st December.
Hamas has been the ruler of Gaza since 2007, after it violently seized control of the enclave from Fatah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s party. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organisation by the US, the EU, Canada, and Israel.
Hamas and Fatah agreed that the PA would assume full authority over the Gaza Strip by 1st December. The two factions have agreed to meet again in Cairo on 21st November 2017 to discuss further matters. As part of the agreement, officials appointed by Hamas will reportedly be incorporated into the PA, and a joint committee will reform the police and intelligence agencies of both bodies.
Under the terms of the unity agreement, the PA will take control of the Gaza-Israel crossings and the Palestinian presidential guard will take control of the Gaza-Egypt crossing (Rafah), with European observers stationed there to prevent arms smuggling.
In September, Hamas called on PA ministers based in Ramallah to come to Gaza in order to assume their roles as part of the national reconciliation government agreed in 2011.
Israel reacted to the announcement by saying it will not recognise the Palestinian unity deal until Hamas disarms and recognises Israel. Israel’s security cabinet said however that it will not try to prevent its implementation nor break off relations with the Palestinian Authority.
In a statement on Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Any reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas must include honouring international agreements and the Quartet conditions, first and foremost among them recognising Israel and disarming Hamas.
He underlined: “Israel opposes any reconciliation that does not include these components. Israel insists that the PA not allow any base whatsoever for Hamas terrorist actions from PA areas in Judea and Samaria [West Bank] or from Gaza, if the PA indeed takes responsibility for its territory”.
Fatah and Hamas have been bitterly divided, and the most recent Palestinian unity government
collapsed in June 2015, after having been formed in April 2014.
Earlier this year, Fatah asked Israel to cut power to Gaza, further deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the territory.