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Palestinian PM visits Gaza in major

reconciliation move with Hamas


UN 'hopeful' after Hamas announced it was handing over administrative control
of the Gaza Strip to Palestinian unity government

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah and President Mahmoud Abbas on a


sign in Gaza (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

Monday 2 October 2017


GAZA CITY, Gaza - The West Bank-based Palestinian prime minister crossed into
the Gaza Strip on Monday in a major move towards reconciliation between
Hamas and the mainstream Fatah party, a decade after the Islamist group seized
the territory in a civil war.
Hamas announced last week that it was handing over administrative control of
the Gaza Strip to a unity government headed by Rami al-Hamdallah, but the
movements armed wing remains the dominant power in the enclave of two
million people.
Hamass reversal was the most significant step towards elusive Palestinian unity.
Since the government was formed in 2014, it failed to function in Gaza because of
disputes between Hamas and Fatah over its responsibilities.
Analysts said narrowing internal divisions could help Western-backed President
Mahmoud Abbas counter Israels argument that it has no negotiating partner for
peace.
Read more
Fatah and Hamas talk reconciliation - but are Palestinians convinced?
"We came with instructions from Abbas to tell the world from the heart of Gaza
that the Palestinian state cannot and will not be established without geographical
and political unity between Gaza and the West Bank," Hamdallah said.
The success of the government work will always depend executive and
operational ability on the ground - so far we are looking forward to a postive
impact on the lives of the citizens in Gaza.

Young people in Gaza


greet the arrival of Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (MEE/Mohammed
Asad)
A Hamas police honour guard and hundreds of Palestinians, many of them waving
Palestinian flags, welcomed Hamdallah outside the Hamas-controlled checkpoint,
down the road from Israels Erez border crossing through which the prime
minister and his delegation passed.
I am very optimistic, after seeing Ismael Hanniyah and Rami al-Hamdallah
together, I am sure that this is a successful reconciliation, said 56-year-old Elham
Mohammed.
Palestinian flags are filling the streets, People are chanting for unity. We, cant
believe the 11 years nightmare is finally going to end.
Sabri Siadam, Minister of Education and a member of Fatah Central Committee,
told Middle East Eye the mood among Palestinians was joyous at the meeting.
Today a new history is written in Gaza Strip, today was an achievement for all
the Palestinians, happiness filled the streets, people are satisfied and optimistic,"
he said.
We saw life, hope, and persistence in Gaza streets today, after 3 wars and 11
years of division.
'Dream of every Palestinian'

Other Palestinian officials also praised Hamdallas visit.


Fatah Spokesperson Osama Al Qawasmi said Palestinians deserve unity, calling
the visit historic.He thanked the Egyptian government for overseeing upcoming
negotiations between Fatah and Hamas.
These meetings will discuss all the issues and cases; security, the borders, social
reconciliation, and the public employees, he told MEE. These are very
complicated issues that both parties are determined and willing to resolve.
I am a victim of the 11 year division... I dont remember having 24 hours of
electricity. I grew in an open air jail.
-Bassel Swairki, a 19-year old Gaza resident
Qawasmi called for cooperation to end the disastrous humanitarian crisis in
Gaza.
The public employees issue is a very important case that matters all the
Palestinian families, we formed a special committee to solve this issue that will
hold meetings in Egypt, whereas this issue has a huge priority and has to be
solved as soon as possible, he said.
Water Authority Chairman Mazin Ghunaim promised changes on the ground in
Gaza.
We have orders from the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to start our
work in Gaza Strip and to implement the solutions and the plans the PA agreed on
concerning the current issues the strip is facing, he told MEE.
Hussein al-Araj, minister of local governance talked of projects by the Palestinian
government to serve the people of Gaza.
The local government will try to fill in the gaps that were missing in the
municipalities in the past years due to the blockade and the Israeli restrictions on
the strip, he told MEE.
Ahmed Assaf, Palestinian Radio and Television Corporation General, noted the
overwhelming support for unity.
Palestinians in Gaza strip want to end the Palestinian division that was a main
reason of the deteriorating situation they have been living the past 11 years,
Assaf told MEE. A State of Palestine and the end of the occupation is the dream
of every Palestinian.
Bassel Swairki, a 19-year old Gaza resident, said he was "scared of
disappointment" but still hopeful.
"I believe that I am a victim of the 11 year division, I was eight years old when it
started," he told MEE.
"I dont remember having 24 hours of electricity. I grew in an open air jail"
'It happens every two years'
Hamas, considered a "terrorist group" by Israel and the West, made its dramatic
reversal towards unity last month, disbanding its Gaza shadow government, after
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott
on its main donor, Qatar, over alleged support of terrorism.
Michael Oren, deputy minister for diplomacy in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu's cabinet, played down the unity drive, saying "it happens every two
or three years" and that Hamas remains dedicated to Israel's destruction.

"One of the issues is whether Hamas will be able to retain its arms. If it does, then
it's a non-starter for Israel," he said.
Abbas' pressure over the past several months on Hamas to loosen its grip
included halting electricity payments to Israeli suppliers, a sanction that caused
extensive daily blackouts in Gaza.
Abbas also cut wages to civil servants still on the unity government's payroll, a
move that deepened economic hardship in an area long under partial blockade by
Israel and Egypt, which cite security concerns for border restrictions.
Hamdallah, accompanied by security men from the West Bank-based Palestinian
Authority and Hamas forces, was scheduled to hold talks with Hamas leader
Ismail Haniyeh and tour Shejaia, a neighbourhood heavily damaged by Israeli
bombardment in a 2014 war with Gaza militants.
On Tuesday, the Palestinian unity cabinet will meet in Gaza.
"The agenda is crowded with ideas and projects," Culture Minister Ehad Bseisso
said. "We need to ... push the wheel of reconciliation forward, to create a positive
atmosphere."
In addition to setting a date for holding presidential and parliamentary elections,
rival factions will have to resolve the issue of the fate of the 40,000 to 50,000 civil
and military staff Hamas had hired since 2007.
Egyptian officials in Gaza
Egyptian delegates arrived in Gaza on Sunday on the eve of the fresh attempt at
reconciliation, an official said.
The Palestinian schism is seen as a major obstacle to a peace agreement between
Israel and a future Palestinian state combining the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The initiative is backed by Egypt, which will be closely following the talks,
intended to prepare for a transfer of power in the Gaza Strip from Hamas to
Abbas's PA.
"An Egyptian delegation, including Egypt's ambassador to Israel Hazem Khairat,
and two other high-ranking Egyptian intelligence officers, arrived in Gaza" from
Israel, Mohammed al-Maqdama, from the PA office that coordinates with the
Israeli authorities, told AFP.
On the eve of the handover, Hamas also released five Fatah security men it jailed
two years ago for what an Interior Ministry spokesman described as actions
harmful to internal security. Their sentences ranged from seven to 15 years.

Yehya Al-Sinwar prepares to meet with the Palestinian prime minister


(MEE/Mohammed Asad)
Speaking to reporters, one of the freed inmates, Taher Abu Armana, thanked
Hamas Gaza chief Yehya Al-Sinwar and Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah
security chief in the enclave, for his release.
UN 'hopeful'
UN envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nickolay Mladenov, told MEE that
there were real reasons to believe the parties could buck the trend.
The difference today that we are seeing that there is a political will on both sides
and in the region to make sure that the reconciliation works, and this is only the
beginning of the process," he said.
The return of the government to Gaza to take their responsibilities is the first
step. The Palestinians need to overcome very big obstacles, 10 years of division is
a long time, there will be issues related to the public employees in Gaza, in
addition to the security issue that needs to be figured out.
We are hopeful that the government will start with a good environment will by
all Palestinian parties with small steps and then its necessary that the political
factions need to find compromises to address bigger issues.
Al-Azhar, one of the world's leading Islamic seats of learning, also welcomed the
steps taken towards national reconciliation.
Additional reporting by AFP
Posted by Thavam