Egyptian mediators in Gaza press Palestinians to reconcile
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Egyptian mediators in Gaza press Palestinians to reconcile

Team of officials step up pressure to save faltering reconciliation deal between Hamas and its West Bank rival, Fatah

Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in Gaza City on December 3, 2017, in support of the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Palestinians wave the national flag during a demonstration in Gaza City on December 3, 2017, in support of the reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

A team of Egyptian officials arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to renew efforts to push for reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas.

Two Egyptian intelligence officials and a diplomat came to the Palestinian enclave, along with several government ministers from the Fatah-led Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank.

A delegation of Hamas leaders has similarly been in Egypt since February 9, in what is believed to be an attempt to intensify an Egyptian pressure campaign on the terrorist group, which rules Gaza.

An Egypt-brokered agreement in early October originally set a December 1 deadline for Hamas to fully transfer power in the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian Authority, but disagreements between the two factions have seen that deadline extended repeatedly.

Disputes over civil services and the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing have been thorny issues between the sides.

Last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to take “painful and unprecedented” measures against Hamas to force the terror group to dismantle its de facto government in the Gaza Strip and cede power back to his Western-backed PA.

Abbas’s threat was followed up by a series of sanctions that included drastic cuts in the salaries of PA employees in the Gaza Strip, the suspension of social assistance to hundreds of families, and the forced retirement of thousands of civil servants.

In addition, the PA stopped paying Israel for electricity and fuel supplies to the coastal enclave.

Hamas had hoped Abbas would lift the sanctions after the November 2017 signing in Cairo of the “reconciliation” agreement, which has since faltered.

The Gaza terror group was to hand over power to the PA by December 1, but disputes regarding civil services and the disarmament of Hamas militias saw that deadline missed. A February 1 deadline also passed with no progress in sight.

While small changes have occurred since the deal was signed last year — notably the handing over of Gaza’s borders to the PA — Hamas remains firmly in charge inside the territory.

It was hoped that Fatah-Hamas reconciliation could alleviate humanitarian suffering in Gaza, home to some two million people.

Earlier this month, a senior United Nations official warned that Gaza was on the verge of “full collapse.”

The reconciliation deal was also seen by some as a strategy for the Palestinians to grapple with a crisis in relations with the US and Israel’s right-wing government.

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