Fatah and Hamas election officials to meet in Gaza Monday

Meeting marks progress toward a Palestinian unity government

The Palestinian election committee is set to meet in Gaza on Monday, as Fatah and Hamas intensify a new series of efforts to form a Palestinian unity government, authorities said Sunday.

The Central Elections Commission (CEC) will begin by updating the electoral register in Gaza. Jamil Khaldi, head of the CEC in Gaza, said that work would begin after the arrival of Hanna Nasser, his West Bank counterpart.

The two parties have reportedly agreed to a new power-sharing structure en route to a unity government.

Monday’s meeting follows an agreement reached in Cairo last week, which provides a new timetable for a Fatah-Hamas power-sharing deal that envisions elections in about six months.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported Sunday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal  will meet shortly to finalize and announce a unity government, according to Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah reconciliation team.

Hamas leader Osama Hamdan said Fatah and Hamas representatives will meet in Cairo to discuss the composition of the government, and fix a date, in about 10 days, for the two leaders to meet.

Reconciliation efforts have stalled repeatedly, however, and it is unclear if the negotiations will succeed this time.

The Islamic militant Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in 2007. A unity deal was reached earlier this year but hung up over disagreements over whether Abbas should head an interim government that prepares for elections.

Last week’s agreement said the interim government should be formed by the first week of June and remain in office for six months.

Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, have been attempting to implement a reconciliation agreement brokered by Egypt and signed last year in Cairo. That agreement included the formation of a unity government and the holding of elections in May.

Israel has said it will have no dealings with a government involving Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

In an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper at the weekend, meanwhile, Mashaal said that the events in Syria have affected Iran’s relations with both Hamas and Hezbollah, but did not specify how. He confirmed that the Hamas leadership has left its former base in Damascus and is now dispersed between several countries.

Mashaal called on the US on Saturday to stop hindering reconciliation between Hamas and the PA.

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