Palestinian rivals Fatah and Hamas began detailed negotiations behind closed doors in Cairo on Tuesday on ending their crippling decade-long split, a delegate said.
The talks follow a key breakthrough last week when Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Hamas-run Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his ministers officially took control of government departments there.
“The dialogue committee for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas started work under Egyptian sponsorship,” the delegate from the Hamas terror group told AFP.
The talks “began in the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence to examine the files to enable a Palestinian national unity government to work in the Gaza Strip,” he added.
Azzam al-Ahmad, who heads the Fatah delegation, told AFP earlier that the main point of discussion would be “empowering the government in Gaza.”
The Islamists of the Hamas terror group and the West Bank-based Fatah movement of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have been at odds since they fought a near civil war in 2007.
The split has complicated any potential peace negotiations with Israel, as Hamas remains committed to the Jewish state’s destruction and has vowed it will not hand over its arsenal as part of a reconciliation deal with the PA.
Multiple previous attempts at reconciliation have failed but the latest Egyptian-led push received a major boost last month when Hamas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza.
The two sides remain sharply at odds, however, over the future of Hamas’s 25,000-strong armed wing, which the terror group says is nonnegotiable.
Senior figures in the Fatah delegation include intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Fayez Abu Eita, a party leader in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian official news agency Wafa said.
Newly appointed Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri, who in recent years served as the terror group’s head of West Bank operations, and the organization’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar will lead the Hamas delegation, a spokesman said.