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Palestinian reconciliation ‘collapsing’ over weapons dispute, Hamas leader says

‘Some people want reconciliation on Israeli and American terms,’ says Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, as the terror group refuses to disarm

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

The leader of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, waves as he arrives for a meeting with the Palestinian Authority's prime minister and other officials in Gaza City on October 2, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)
The leader of the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, waves as he arrives for a meeting with the Palestinian Authority's prime minister and other officials in Gaza City on October 2, 2017. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar said on Thursday that the Palestinian reconciliation process is failing over a dispute about the future of the terror group’s weapons.

“Whoever doesn’t see that reconciliation is collapsing is blind,” said Sinwar, in a meeting with local Gaza youth and social media activists.

“Some people want reconciliation on Israeli and American terms, which means handing over weapons and the tunnel and rocket capabilities,” he added.

An Egyptian-brokered agreement in early October originally set a December 1 deadline for the terror group to fully transfer power in the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, though that was later pushed back to December 10.

Masked operatives from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, a military wing of the Hamas terror group, ride vehicles as they commemorate the 30th anniversary of their group, in Gaza City, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

In Gaza, the situation has remained essentially unchanged despite the deadline, with Hamas police still patrolling the streets, while crippling electricity shortages endure.

Hamas claimed earlier in December that it had handed over control of all government ministries, but Fatah’s top negotiator later said “obstacles” remained.

Since the start of this reconciliation process between rival Palestinian factions — several others have failed in the past — the question over the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing has been a thorny issue between the sides.

Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated L) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

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.

Abbas has also not yet lifted sanctions against Hamas, including cutting payments for electricity, further worsening an already severe power shortage in Gaza.

Both sides still publicly say they remain committed to the reconciliation.

AFP contributed to this report.

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