Hamas cleared out of the Gaza residence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday in the most concrete sign yet that the rivals are moving toward reconciliation.
Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank.
Repeated reconciliation efforts failed, but the current one might have better chances. Hamas is mired in a crippling financial crisis, while Abbas’s attempts to negotiate Palestinian statehood with Israel have failed.
According to the terms of the reconciliation pact, Abbas is to form a unity government by late May, followed by elections within six months.
Hamas security seized Abbas’s residence in the 2007 takeover. On Wednesday, troops loaded desks and mattresses onto pickup trucks that drove out of the gated villa. An official said the handover of the home requires a government decision.
Less than a month has passed since the two factions agreed to bury the hatchet on April 23, in a historic deal that ended the seven-year rift between them.
Since then, there have been several indications of warming ties between the two parties, such as a decision by Hamas to allow West Bank-based newspapers to be distributed in the Gaza Strip, and a corresponding decision by the Palestinian Authority to allow the Hamas newspaper to be distributed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Members of both organizations announced the deal at a press conference in Gaza following two days of negotiations last month.
The deal calls for the unity government and for presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections to be called within six months of the coalition taking form, Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh said at the time.
On Wednesday, Ahniyeh said that a new Palestinian government will need the approval of the Hamas-dominated parliament.
“Any government that does not obtain the confidence of the parliament will have no constitutional legality, and Fatah and Hamas have agreed on this,” Haniyeh said in a speech to Hamas MPs in Gaza.
“The legislative council (parliament) will also monitor the consensus government’s work,” he said.
Hamas has dominated the Palestinian parliament since winning a landslide victory in the last parliamentary election, held in 2006.
That government has not met or governed since 2007.
Representatives from both Fatah and Hamas have met several times for talks on a final line-up for the government to end their division after Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza in a week of deadly clashes in 2007.
The reconciliation agreement incensed Israel, putting the final nail in the coffin of faltering US-led peace talks between the Jewish state and Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
A senior Fatah official arrived in Gaza City on Tuesday for talks on forming a unity government.
AFP contributed to this report.