In Cairo, Hamas says it’s ready for Palestinian unity government
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In Cairo, Hamas says it’s ready for Palestinian unity government

Ismail Haniyeh insists his group is willing to dissolve a contentious committee that led Abbas to cut power to Gaza

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, center, and spokesman Fawzi Barhoum attend a protest in Gaza City on July 22, 2017, against new Israeli security measures implemented at the holy site, which include metal detectors and cameras, following an attack that killed two Israeli policemen the previous week. (AFP/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has said that his movement is ready for a reconciliation agreement with its rival Palestinian faction Fatah without any preconditions.

Haniyeh, the group’s political bureau chief , was speaking Monday following a meeting with Egyptian security officials in Cairo.

Hamas had previously demanded that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas halt a series of measures taken against the terror group before sitting down to discuss a reconciliation deal.

Haniyeh, along with Hamas’s leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar, traveled to Cairo on Saturday, where they were joined by a number of members of the group who traveled to Egypt from across the Middle East, including from Lebanon, Turkey and Qatar.

Following a meeting between the Hamas political leadership, Haniyeh met with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khaled Fawzi.

In a statement published on Hamas’s official website, Haniyeh said the group is ready “to hold a dialogue with Fatah in Cairo immediately, to come to an agreement and set the terms for its implementation.”

Leader of the Hamas terror group in Gaza Yahya Sinwar attends a gathering in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis on July 22, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hamas said it was ready to dismantle its Administrative Committee, which was formed by the group in March in order to widen its governance in the Strip.

Abbas cut electricity in Gaza and slashed the salaries of tens of thousands of public servants in a bid to compel Hamas to dissolve a contentious committee it formed to run the territory in defiance of Abbas’ government.

The rival Palestinian factions split in 2007 when Hamas violently routed forces loyal to Abbas from Gaza. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have since failed.

Hamas officials have been in and out of Cairo frequently over recent months in an attempt to improve relations with Egypt, a country with which the Palestinian terror group has had a rocky relationship and is trying to strengthen ties.

According to a report Monday in the Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, Hamas is keen for Cairo to mediate Palestinian reconciliation because the group believes it will lead to better ties with Egypt.

The fact that the assembly of the newly elected Hamas leadership on Monday took place in Egypt rather than in Qatar, where the group’s leadership has been headquartered in recent years, was seen as a symbolic shift in the Islamist group’s new emphasis on their relationship with Cairo.

Hamas has long been accused by the Egyptian government of aiding the brutal Islamic insurgency in Egypt’s restive North Sinai region, but in recent months, Hamas has beefed up security along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, seeking to assure Cairo that it is fighting IS sympathizers.

Chief of the Hamas terror group in Gaza Yahya Sinwar (C-L) visits the border with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on July 6, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

In exchange, Egypt is supposed to alleviate its blockade of Gaza by opening the Rafah crossing — the only way out of Gaza except through Israel — as well as increase commercial ties with the Strip.

The Rafah crossing is infrequently opened, leaving the strict Israeli border as the only other option for Palestinians who want to enter or exit the Strip.

PA officials have said Egypt assured Ramallah it will not reopen the Rafah crossing until Abbas’s “legitimate authority” is represented on the border.

AP contributed to his report. 

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