Fatah Delegation to Enter Talks With Gaza Factions Next Week in Egypt

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves during a mass wedding in Ramallah, West Bank, August 18, 2018.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves during a mass wedding in Ramallah, West Bank, August 18, 2018.Credit: \ MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS

A Fatah delegation will leave for the Egyptian capital of Cairo next week to take part in talks with Gaza's factions, including Hamas, a Fatah official close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Haaretz Monday.

The news comes in the shadow of the delay in the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip

The delegation will include Azzam al-Ahmad, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of the reconciliation talks, and two senior Palestinian officials considered close to Abbas, intelligence chief Majid Faraj and Civilian Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh.

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The Fatah official told Haaretz that the Egyptians pressured Abbas last week to send a delegation to Cairo, but the Palestinian president objected on grounds that a separate agreement was being drawn up between Hamas and Israel that would only deepen the divisions and the separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman accused Abbas of  working to push Israel and Hamas to a confrontation in the Gaza Strip because the two factions were unable to solve the crisis between them.

"Hamas is not willing to go to reconciliation with Fatah and transfer control of the Strip to Abu Mazen's people," Lieberman said, referring to Abbas by his nickname. "We are being dragged in because two sides in the Palestinian camp can't get along," he told Radio Darom.

Abbas reiterated his position on reconciliation over the weekend, saying the PA wants to rule in Gaza as it does in the West Bank, such that there will be one government, one law and one set of weapons. The PA was also critical of the emerging Israel-Hamas agreement, increasing tensions between Ramallah and Cairo.

Palestinian sources in Ramallah and in the Strip said Abbas’ readiness to send a delegation to Cairo does not point to a breakthrough in the reconciliation talks. Haaretz has learned that disputes between the factions in the Cairo talks have emerged, particularly between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas over the desire to reach a deal with Israel ahead of Palestinian reconciliation. PFLP representatives warned of the consequences of the move, which they said would lead to a severing of any PA or PLO ties to Gaza.

On Sunday afternoon, the representatives of all the Gaza factions, including Hamas, returned to the Strip for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which begins Monday and continues all week. After the holiday, the faction representatives are expected to return to Cairo to continue the talks. The participation of such a senior Fatah delegation could lead to a change in the negotiations, as well as a cease-fire announcement. 

Meanwhile, representatives of the Palestinian factions noted that irrespective of the official declaration by Hamas that it governs Gaza, they will avoid any moves that would disrupt the situation, whether it be confrontation with Israel or within the Palestinian arena. They added, however, that there would be no call to stop the demonstrations along the Gaza border fence and that they planned to exploit the events there to the end, echoing statements made by senior Hamas officials over the weekend.

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