Hamas will allow more than 120 Fatah officials banished from the Gaza Strip during the Islamist group’s violent takeover in 2007 to return to the Palestinian enclave in a bid to advance reconciliation efforts with its Ramallah-based rival.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told satellite news channel Al-Kitab Monday evening that Hamas would soon let some Fatah leaders return to the Strip, and release a number of Fatah political prisoners from Hamas prisons, in a bid to push forward the reconciliation process.
The two Palestinian movements have been unable to implement the terms of two reconciliation agreements signed in 2012; the first in Doha, Qatar, in February and the second in Cairo in May, paving the way for the establishment of a unity government headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of national elections.
Nearly all of Fatah’s security and political officials were forced to flee Gaza following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Both Palestinian governments suppress the activities of their rivals in the territory they control.
Breaking a long freeze in talks, Fatah’s chief negotiator with Hamas Azzam Al-Ahmad secretly resumed talks with Hamas’s political No. 2, Moussa Abu Marzouk, earlier this month.
On January 8, Qatari news channel Al Jazeera, a station close to Hamas, reported that the secretary general of one of Gaza’s smaller factions has been engaged in mediation efforts between the two movements. Haniyeh called Abbas in early January, updating the Ramallah leader on the “goodwill gestures” Hamas has undertaken in Gaza, Hamas leader Salah Bardawil told Al Jazeera.
Under increasingly growing political pressure from Egypt, Hamas’s interest in realizing reconciliation is higher than than that of Fatah, which enjoys the diplomatic support of both Egypt and Jordan.
A diplomatic source speaking to The Times of Israel on condition of anonymity said that Abbas had little will to cut a deal with Hamas, preferring “to see the Islamic movement sweat.”