A member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council denied Sunday a Hamas spokesman’s claim that the Palestinian unity government’s mandate had expired after six months.
Faisal Abu Shahla told the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that there was never any agreement that the government would fall if the unity government had not completed the steps it was tasked with, including holding elections, within six months. A national reconciliation pact was signed in June.
“If the Hamas movement has retracted the reconciliation agreement and the termination of rivalry, that is a different case,” he said.
Abu Shahla was responding to comments made earlier in the day by Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, who said the unity government’s mandate had come to an end.
Abu Zuhri had emphasized during a Gaza City press conference that a decision regarding any future of a unity government would only be made through national dialogue and consensus, and said that Hamas wished to maintain national unity.
Abu Shahla said that additional reconciliation talks were suspended until Hamas responded to Fatah regarding a series of bomb attacks against Fatah officials’ property in Gaza in early November and the subsequent cancellation of a memorial service for deceased Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza.
A “comprehensive” agreement signed in September meant to bring the unity government back to Gaza was the sixth official accord between the two groups. Major issues were left unsolved, however, including salaries for Hamas employees in Gaza, control over the coastal territory’s security forces and its border crossings.
The Palestinian rivals had set up a unity government of independent technocrats in June but it never took hold, with PA President Mahmoud Abbas accusing Hamas of running a “parallel” administration as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas in turn accused Abbas’s PA, headquartered in Ramallah, of not paying its 45,000 employees in Gaza. The tensions appear to have spiked after Operation Protective Edge over Fatah claims that Hamas’s conduct in the Hamas-Israel war led to unacceptably high losses of life and damage to property.
Last month, the Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas for the wave of bombing attacks that hit 10 houses and cars belonging to senior Fatah members in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Zuhri denounced the Palestinian Authority’s arrest of hundreds of Hamas operatives in the West Bank, calling arrests politically motivated “criminal acts,” in the press conference Sunday.
The rising tensions, hostility and suspicion between the rival political factions has overshadowed the Gaza reconstruction effort and prevented the two from setting a date for joint elections outlined in the terms of the agreement.
Tamar Pileggi and news agencies contributed to this report.