Officials from rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas were meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, Sunday in an attempt to jump-start a reconciliation.
Both sides were represented by high-ranking members, with Hamas sending political chief Khaled Mashaal and senior leader Moussa Abu Marzouk and Fatah sending Central Committee members Azzam al-Ahmad and Sakhr Basiso, Fatah official Ali Barakeh told the London-based daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat.
According to the report, the groups were set to discuss ways to end divisions and to unite their ranks in the face of “Israeli aggression,” stressing that unity was necessary to rebuild Gaza and end the Israeli blockade on the Strip.
Barakeh told media that the discussions were to be held on the basis of the Cairo Agreement signed by 14 Palestinian factions in 2011, and the goal is to create a “consensus government” to conduct work in state institutions.
Also on the agenda is a 2014 deal signed by the two groups in Gaza’s Shata refugee camp, which called for elections by the end of that year.
Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority, which rules in the West Bank, while Hamas wields power in the Gaza Strip. The two groups have been at loggerheads almost constantly since Hamas won elections in the Palestinian Authority in 2006 and subsequently staged a violent takeover of Gaza.
Many meetings have been held over the years and three agreements were signed — in Qatar, Cairo and Gaza — but none has led to any real change on the ground.
Ramallah’s security agencies have continued arresting and harassing Hamas operatives in the West Bank unabated, while Hamas has placed hundreds of Fatah members in Gaza under house arrest, at times even shooting at its members. Media outlets for the competing factions have continuously defamed one another .
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has attacked reconciliation efforts in the past, saying PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is affiliated with Fatah, had to choose between making peace with Israel or with Hamas. Israel, the US and the European Union view Hamas as a terrorist group.
Qatar is the latest would-be mediator. It stepped into the void after Egypt, which is at odds with Hamas, refused to host meetings between the two rival factions.
Arab media sources report that Abbas will personally attend the talks only if there is a breakthrough.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.