The Hamas terrorist group has agreed to implement a reconciliation agreement with the Palestinian Authority that would see the rulers of the Gaza Strip return control of the territory to its West Bank rivals, the Lebanese al-Mayadeen outlet reported Tuesday.
Sources close to Hamas told the Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper the group would implement the agreement brokered by Egypt last year on the condition that civil servants in Gaza be paid their salaries and all PA sanctions be removed.
The report said Hamas is demanding that a Palestinian unity government be formed within 45 days, and called for general elections to be held within six months.
The sources said Hamas officials made the offer to Egyptian officials during a recent visit to Cairo.
Egypt has been working to revive the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, meeting with leaders from the rival parties for separate talks in recent months.
In October 2017, Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered deal to bring the West Bank and Gaza under one Palestinian government, but they failed to implement it. Disputes over civil services and the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing have remained thorny issues between the sides.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since ousting the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from the territory in 2007.
Last year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to take “painful and unprecedented” measures against Hamas to force the terror group to dismantle its de facto government and cede power back to his Western-backed PA.
Abbas’s threat was followed up by a series of sanctions that included drastic cuts in the salaries of PA employees in the Gaza Strip, the suspension of social assistance to hundreds of families, and the forced retirement of thousands of civil servants. In addition, the PA stopped paying Israel for electricity and fuel supplies to the coastal enclave.
Hamas had hoped Abbas would lift the sanctions after signing the reconciliation agreement in Cairo last year, but since then, a number of deadlines for the transfer of power were missed, and the PA sanctions on Gaza have remained.
Earlier this month, Qatar began paying the salaries of Palestinian civil servants in Gaza in a bid to ease tensions in and around the impoverished territory. A total of $90 million is to be distributed in six monthly installments of $15 million, according to authorities, primarily to cover salaries of officials working for Hamas.
The Israeli-authorized money transfer appeared to be part of a deal that would see cash-strapped Hamas end months of often violent protests along the border, in exchange for Israel easing parts of its blockade of Gaza.
But days after the first cash Qatari transfer was made, one of the biggest flare-ups in violence erupted in and around Gaza, when over 460 rockets and mortar shells were fired at southern Israel.
The Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted over 100 of them. Most of the rest landed in open fields, but dozens landed inside Israeli cities and towns, killing one person, injuring dozens and causing significant property damage. Israel responded with extensive airstrikes in the Strip before calm returned.
Deadly clashes have accompanied the major protests along the Gaza border with Israel that began on March 30. Israel has accused Hamas of leading the protests and using them as cover to carry out attacks against troops stationed at the border.