New Palestinian Unity Government to Hold First Session Thursday

Follows Israel's backtracking on refusal to let ministers cross its territory; W. Bankers to go through Erez crossing into Gaza; session to be held in Abbas' Gaza home.

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Palestinian reconciliation government after its swearing in, June, 2014.
Palestinian reconciliation government after its swearing in, June, 2014.Credit: Reuters

The new Fatah-Hamas reconciliation government, which was forged between the rival Palestinian movements in June, will convene its first-ever cabinet session on Thursday in the Gaza Strip.

The prime minister, Fatah's Rami Hamdallah, as well as the other government ministers who live in the West Bank, will enter the Strip through the Erez crossing on the Israeli-Gazan border after they received the necessary permits from Israel.

Rami Hamdallah, prime minister of Palestinian reconciliation government. Credit: Reuters

This marks a reversal of Jerusalem's declaration, made after the Palestinian government was formed, that it would not allow members to cross Israeli territory. But since the reconciliation government's central mission is the rehabilitation of Gaza after its summer war with Israel, and since the international community of donors to the Strip, led by Europe, the United Nations and United States, have made it clear that the Fatah-Hamas government will be in charge of rebuilding Gaza, Israel was in no position to continue placing obstacles in the Palestinian government's way.

A government minister suggested that the permits for passage were among the pledges Israel made to UN peace process envoy Robert Serry. When the ministers enter the Strip, they are expected to be given a celebratory welcome from leaders of various political factions.

The cabinet session will take place in the Gaza home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Aside from the rebuilding of Gaza's infrastructure, the ministers will discuss compensation for the countless Gazan families who suffered losses to life, health and property in the war.

On Saturday, the ministers will travel to Cairo to take part in an international conference on rehabiliting Gaza. The government minister said Israel has guaranteed the Palestinians that following the Cairo meeting, government members will be allowed to continue crossing from the West Bank to Gaza via the Erez passage.

Palestinian media are reporting that PA security officials, including the Presidential Guard, entered the Strip on Wednesday to provide security for the cabinet session. Tension was apparent among both PA and Hamas security forces following Tuesday's night explosions and fire at the French Cultural Center in Gaza City. While Hamas authorities in the Strip blame a technical fault in the center's gasoline supply and generators, unofficial Gazan sources say the blast, which caused no injuries in the near-empty building, appears to have been deliberate.

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