Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday welcomed a unity deal between his Fatah party and rivals Hamas, telling AFP it was a “final agreement” to end their decade-long division.
“I welcome the agreement reached between the Fatah and Hamas movements in Cairo,” he said by telephone, adding he gave orders to sign it immediately.
“I received a detailed report from the Fatah delegation about what was agreed and I considered it the final agreement to end the division.”
Details of the agreement have not yet been released and a press conference was being planned for Thursday afternoon in the Egyptian capital, where talks have been taking place since Tuesday.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s office said in a statement, without giving further details, that “an agreement was reached today between Hamas and Fatah under Egyptian sponsorship.”
An official from Abbas’s Fatah movement said the Palestinian president was now planning to travel to the Gaza Strip within a month as part of the unity bid in what would be his first visit in a decade.
Sanctions taken by Abbas against Hamas-controlled Gaza will also soon be lifted, the Fatah official said.
The deal includes 3,000 members of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority’s police force redeploying to Gaza, a member of the negotiating team told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The figure is however a fraction of the more than 20,000 police officers employed separately by Hamas.
Another party to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the agreement would see Palestinian Authority forces take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
He added that all Palestinian factions would begin wider negotiations on the formation of a unity government in the coming two weeks.
Abbas had insisted that he would only reassume control of Gaza if Hamas hands over power. Hamas, in turn, has said that it will not disarm — even if it is willing to give Abbas control of the Gaza government.
Reports from Egypt Thursday, quoted by Israel Radio, said Hamas was not prepared to give up its arms. The Islamist terror group, which is dedicated to the elimination of Israel, was said to have instead agreed under the terms of the emerging reconciliation deal that it would not use its weaponry unless a resort to force was approved by a joint panel. There was no immediate official confirmation of this.
One of the key issues has been punitive measures taken by Abbas against Gaza in recent months, including reducing electricity payments that left the territory’s residents with only a few hours of power a day.
“All the measures taken recently will end very shortly,” Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.
The two sides had been meeting in the Egyptian capital this week with the aim of ending the crippling decade-old split between the rival factions.
Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in a near civil war in 2007 and the two factions have been at loggerheads ever since. Multiple previous reconciliation efforts have failed.
Egypt has been keen to improve security in the Sinai Peninsula which borders Gaza and where jihadist rebels have fought a long-running insurgency.
An Egyptian source close to the talks said intelligence chief Khaled Fawzi had followed the talks closely.