Palestinian Authority PM leaves Gaza after reconciliation visit

Fatah and Hamas to meet in Cairo next week as part of unity efforts, but fissures emerge between sides over terror group’s arsenal

File: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at a cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
File: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrives at a cabinet meeting in Gaza City on October 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah left the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day visit aimed at reconciliation with the Hamas group, an AFP journalist said.

Hamas agreed to hand over power to a unity government last month and Hamdallah’s visit, the first since 2015, saw his ministers take control of ministries in Gaza.

The move is part of wider attempts to end a decade-long split between the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza.

The two sides are set to meet for further talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Tuesday.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (2nd R) visits patients at Gaza City’s Shifa hospital on October 5, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Before leaving on Thursday morning, Hamdallah and a number of his ministers visited the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, as well as a desalination plant.

He then left with his ministers through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, which is controlled by Israel, an AFP videographer said.

He is due to return to Ramallah in the West Bank where a meeting of senior members of Fatah, the party that dominates the Palestinian Authority, will be held Thursday evening.

Hamas, in a statement, said: “The Gaza Strip and its ministries are under the administration of the national reconciliation government. Hamas will work to support and strengthen its role.”

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah are seen together at Haniyeh’s office in Gaza City on October 3, 2017.(AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Hamas has ruled Gaza since 2007, when it seized it from the Palestinian Authority in a near civil war, and multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed.

It has fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.

One of the main stumbling blocks to reconciliation is likely to be Hamas’s armed wing, with senior officials rejecting the idea of disarming.

Two million people live in Gaza, which is blockaded by Israel and Egypt and suffers from poverty and electricity shortages.

Israel maintains the blockade is necessary in order to prevent arms from falling into the hands of the terror group that could be used to launch attacks on the Jewish state.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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