Hamas meets with Abbas rivals as detente with Fatah crumbles

Cairo summit may be intended to signal Palestinian leader that Mohammed Dahlan will return to political arena if reconciliation deal not implemented

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Ismail Haniyeh, left, smiles as he celebrates with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo,File)
Ismail Haniyeh, left, smiles as he celebrates with Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan in Gaza City on Saturday, March 17, 2007. (AP Photo,File)

A senior Hamas delegation visiting Cairo on Monday met with dissident Fatah leaders affiliated with Mohammed Dahlan, an archrival of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

The meeting was the first of its kind since Hamas and Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction signed a reconciliation agreement under the auspices of the Egyptian authorities in November 2017.

The decision of Hamas to meet with Abbas’s rival is the latest signal that the highly touted rapprochement effort may be nearing its end.

Both Fatah and Hamas have held each other responsible for hindering the implementation of the accord.

Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas’ senior political leader, Khalil al-Hayya (C), speaks during a press conference at the end of two days of closed-door talks attended by representatives of 13 leading political parties held in the Egyptian capital Cairo on November 22, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMED EL-SHAHED)

The Hamas delegation, headed by Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo last Friday at the invitation of the Egyptian authorities. The delegation comprises top Hamas officials Khalil Al Hayya, Fathi Hammad and Rouhi Mushtahi.

The Fatah dissidents who met with the Hamas officials are Samir Mashharawi, Sufyan Abu Zaida and Osama Al Farra.

The three are part of what is known as the Democratic Reform Trend, an anti-Abbas group of disgruntled Fatah leaders headed by Dahlan.

Dahlan, a former PA security commander in the Gaza Strip and top Fatah official, was expelled from the ranks of the faction after falling out with the PA president several years ago.

Dahlan has since been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed the political situation and dangers facing the Palestinian cause, as well as ways of alleviating the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, according to a statement released by the office of Mashharawi.

The two parties also discussed ways of ensuring the success of the “reconciliation” agreement and Egyptian efforts to salvage it, the statement said.

Last year, Hamas officials said they had struck a deal with Dahlan to solve the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The deal, the officials said, would pave the way for Dahlan to return to the Gaza Strip, where he would play a major role, with the backing of the UAE and other Arab countries, in improving the living conditions of the Palestinians.

The move was apparently foiled by Abbas’s sudden decision to sign the Egyptian-brokered agreement with Hamas. Abbas is strongly opposed to allowing Dahlan to make a comeback to the Palestinian political arena.

But in wake of the failure of the “reconciliation” agreement, Hamas now appears to be once again weighing the Dahlan “card.”

Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri, left, of Hamas talk to journalists after signing a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements ended their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP/Khaled Desouki)

The move may be aimed at sending a message to Abbas that he should hurry up and implement the agreement if he doesn’t want Dahlan to return to the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, the Hamas officials met with senior representatives of Egypt’s General Intelligence service and discussed the floundering reconciliation agreement and the deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip.

The discussions also focused on the security situation along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, sources close to Hamas said.

On Friday, the Egyptian army launched a major operation against jihadists in Sinai. The offensive came after a wave of terror attacks against Egyptian soldiers and civilians in the area.

The Egyptians have been pressuring Hamas to beef up security measures along their shared border to thwart terror attacks.

Egyptian security officials are expected to visit the Gaza Strip in the coming days to discuss ways of enhancing security coordination with Hamas and preventing the scrapping of the reconciliation agreement, the sources said.

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