In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank
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In deal with Fatah, Hamas said to agree to halt attacks from West Bank

Terror group reportedly accedes to ‘implicit consensus’ on freezing all violence against Israelis, as negotiations continue

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

Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri of Hamas shake hands 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)
Fatah's Azzam al-Ahmad, right, and Saleh al-Arouri of Hamas shake hands 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 terror group Hamas has reportedly agreed to halt its attempts to carry out attacks against Israelis from the West Bank under the Palestinian reconciliation agreement signed Thursday with its rival faction Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority.

In a report Sunday, the London-based Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted “knowledgeable” Palestinian sources who said the two sides had agreed that major decisions such as signing a peace deal or starting a violent conflict with Israel would be made collectively.

“Regarding [violent or peaceful] confrontation, there is an implicit understanding that this includes the Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank,” the sources said.

While the agreement not to carry out attacks from the West Bank does not appear explicitly in the leaked text of the pact, the report said the implicit understanding was connected to an understanding between the two sides for a “principle of partnership,” a phrase which appears in the document’s preamble.

Speaking Tuesday morning to Israel Radio, former PA foreign minister Ashraf al-Ajrami, who is considered close to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said he had heard that the Egyptians demanded a ceasefire from Hamas as the reconciliation negotiations continue.

Members of Palestinian forces loyal to Hamas take part in a military parade in Gaza City on July 26, 2017 amid a tense standoff between Israel and Muslim worshipers at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Hamas has repeatedly refused to disarm and dismantle the 25,000-strong fighting force it controls in the Gaza Strip. However, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said before negotiations began that the terror group would agree that decisions regarding war and peace would be collective, national matters.

Abbas was adamant before the talks began that no unity government would be formed without Hamas completely disarming.

“One authority, one law and one weapon,” Abbas said he was demanding, adding he would not allow Hamas to retain an army apart from the state like the terror group Hezbollah does in Lebanon.

It remains unclear now how the future of Hamas’s military will affect continuing negotiations between the two sides, but neither has openly backed down from their original positions.

While Hamas has for years agreed to a ceasefire against Israel from the Gaza Strip, its West Bank operatives have continued to plan and provoke attacks against Israelis.

This has led to a partnership between Israel and the PA’s security services, which also benefit from foiling Hamas’s terror efforts in the West Bank. The PA has frequently arrested Hamas operatives in the West Bank, and in some case accused them of plotting to overthrow Abbas’s rule.

The official who signed Thursday’s deal for Hamas was deputy political chief Saleh al-Arouri, who in recent years has served as the terror group’s head of West Bank operations, and who said after the signing ceremony that unity would enable the Palestinians to work together against “the Zionist enterprise.”

Hamas representative Saleh al-Arouri speaks after signing a reconciliation deal with senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad, during a short ceremony at the Egyptian intelligence complex in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Arouri is believed by Israel to have planned numerous terrorist attacks including a kidnapping-murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, considered among the main catalysts of the 2014 Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah in a violent coup in 2007. It has since fought three major rounds of conflict against Israel, which it openly seeks to replace with an Islamist state.

However, at the same time, Hamas has said it is willing to accept a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines. In the agreement signed Thursday, it states the both sides, including the terror group, seek a state “on all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Israel, along with the so-called Middle East Quartet — the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — has said it opposes any Palestinian unity government if Hamas does not renounce terrorism, accept Israel’s right to exist, and accept previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

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