Palestinian unity government to meet in Gaza for first time
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Palestinian unity government to meet in Gaza for first time

Four months after Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, West Bank lawmakers to make their way to war-torn coastal enclave for first session

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah greet the members of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo credit: AFP /ABBAS MOMANI)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah greet the members of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah, June 2, 2014. (Photo credit: AFP /ABBAS MOMANI)

The Palestinian unity government is set to meet in the Gaza Strip on Thursday for the first time since its establishment four months ago.

Citing a report by the Ramallah-based Al-Ayyam newspaper, Israel Radio reported late Wednesday that Palestinian lawmakers from the West Bank will make their way to the coastal enclave, the site of heavy clashes between IDF troops and armed militants this past summer, and stay there for several hours. It will be the first meeting between Gaza and West Bank lawmakers since the fragile reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas — and the drawn-out war that followed.

Most of the members of the joint Hamas-Fatah government are from the West Bank, while a smaller percentage are from the Gaza Strip, the newspaper said. Its prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, is a Fatah member and prominent West Bank academic.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Israel Radio quoted deputy Palestinian prime minister Muhammad Mustafa saying Palestinian Authority observers would begin to man the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings into the Gaza Strip in the coming days.

He said the unity government would take responsibility for the crossings and that no members of any Palestinian organization would be allowed near them, as per the truce agreement reached with Hamas in Cairo.

Earlier Wednesday, ahead of key donor talks in Cairo, a top US official said Israel must play a role in the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, also pressing all sides to agree to a lasting ceasefire.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will attend Sunday’s reconstruction conference being co-hosted in Cairo by Egypt and Norway and billed by the US as a “major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort” after the devastating 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist terror group which runs the Gaza Strip. It will also be attended by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamdallah and several Palestinian lawmakers.

The Palestinian government has unveiled a 76-page reconstruction plan for Gaza, calling for $4 billion to rebuild the war-battered territory, with the largest amount going to build housing for some 100,000 left homeless.

Washington has already pledged some $118 million to help the Palestinians in Gaza and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said she expected there to be “a range of countries in the international community who are going to be contributing” funds at the Cairo talks.

The Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip killed nearly 2,200 people, at least half of them combatants according to Israel, while 72 died on the Israeli side, 66 of them soldiers. Israel blames Hamas for all fatalities, since it emplaced its war machine in residential areas. Hamas fired some 4,500 rockets and projectiles at Israel and staged several attacks through tunnels dug under the border.

The war ended in August with a temporary ceasefire, and indirect negotiations for a permanent truce are due to resume under Egyptian mediation later this month.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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