The Palestinian cabinet met in Gaza on Tuesday for the first time since 2014 in a further step toward the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority taking control of the territory.
In an opening speech, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah renewed his pledge to end a decade-long split between the Hamas terror group that controls Gaza and his West Bank-based government.
Hamdallah, along with dozens of ministers and officials from the West Bank-based PA, crossed into Gaza yesterday, ahead of meetings with leaders of the rival Islamic faction Hamas.
“We are here to turn the page on division, restore the national project to its correct direction and establish the (Palestinian) state,” he said.
The session took place in the cabinet room at the official Gaza residence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, hung with portraits of Abbas and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
It was the first meeting of the cabinet in Gaza since November 2014, although Hamdallah visited a year later without his ministers.
Hamas ousted the PA from Gaza after bloody street fighting in 2007, but finally agreed last month to its return, under pressure from the territory’s powerful neighbor Egypt.
Later Tuesday, chief of Egyptian intelligence Khaled Fawzi is expected to arrive in Gaza to help facilitate talks between the two sides. He is slated to meet with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
Fawzi is also said to be meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday before he heads to Gaza, though an official in Abbas’s office said Sunday he could not confirm if such a meeting would take place.
A high-level Egyptian delegation already arrived in the Strip on Sunday.
While Hamas is eager to give up its governing responsibilities, it says it will not dissolve its vast military wing, which has tens of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel.
On Monday, Abbas said he would not form any unity government with Hamas unless the PA were able to take full control of the Gaza’s borders, ministries, and security.
“The border crossing, security, all the ministries must be under the responsibility of the PA,” he said.