Palestinian Authority Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh on Sunday said the PA government had assumed control of just five percent of the Gaza Strip, ahead of a looming December 1 deadline for the PA to take full control of the enclave as part of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.
Fatah, which controls the PA, signed a deal with Hamas in Cairo last month that would see the terror group’s 10-year rule in the Gaza Strip come to a close by the end of November.
Sheikh, however, accused Hamas of dragging its feet in implementing the accord.
“The [PA] government until this moment, financially, administratively and security-wise, has not been set up [in Gaza] more than five percent,” Sheikh told the official PA newscast.
He said Hamas has not permitted PA ministers to take control of their old offices in Gaza and thousands of former government employees who worked in Gaza ministries before Hamas’s takeover of the enclave in 2007 have not returned to work.
The Palestinian minister also said the PA has not been able to set up an effective tax collection system, adding, that the Ramallah is “collecting crumbs” at the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.
Sheikh, a confidant of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, also decried the situation at Gaza’s border crossings, which Hamas handed over to the PA on November 1.
“Our crews are barefoot at the crossings,” he said, adding, “setting up the [PA government] at the crossings is compromised by the lack of security.”
The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was supposed to permanently open soon after the PA took over, but the crossing has for the most part remained closed. The Rafah crossing did reopen last Saturday for three days.
Still, many consider the most difficult obstacle facing the reconciliation process to be the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing.
Abbas wants the PA to be in full control of all weapons and security in the Gaza Strip, but Hamas is refusing to give up its arsenal. Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with Israel since seizing power from Fatah in the enclave in 2007.
Sheikh made it clear that the issue of Hamas’s weapons continues to be a major sticking point between the two sides.
“Weapons are not a factional or an organizational issue. We will not allow anything but one gun and one law” in Gaza, said Sheikh, echoing previous statements by Abbas.
Senior Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zurhi fired back at Sheikh’s comments on Twitter.
“Hussein al-Sheikh’s statements regarding disarming the resistance from its weapons reflects ill intentions and is a repeat of the demand of the occupation,” Zuhri said, adding that Hamas’s disarmament is a “mere pipe dream.”
Salah Bardawil, a senior member Hamas’s negotiating team with Fatah, also decried Sheikh’s statements.
“You’ve received the ministries, the authorities and the border crossings. Show the people what’s the 95% you haven’t received,” he said.
Last week, 13 Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, released a declaration from Cairo calling for legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018.
The declaration does not say the Palestinian factions agreed to elections, but merely “calls” for elections. Palestinians haven’t had presidential elections since 2005 and legislative elections since 2006, when Hamas won.
Bardawil appeared in a video soon after the declaration was made public, calling the result of two days of meetings “lackluster.” He claimed US pressure on Fatah to turn away from the reconciliation was stalling the progress.
Fatah immediately released a statement saying Bardawil’s claim about US pressure was “unfounded.”