Hamas and Fatah Officials Scheduled to Discuss Palestinian Reconciliation in Cairo

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A man looks at a poster depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza City on October 1, 2017.
A man looks at a poster depicting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Gaza City on October 1, 2017. Credit: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS

Delegations from Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to travel to Cairo next week for talks on implementing a reconciliation agreement between the two Palestinian factions.

In conversations with Haaretz, senior figures of both factions said that the talks in Egypt's capital will address issues at the heart of disagreements between Fatah and Hamas, including control of border crossings, future leadership and Hamas' military wing.

A Palestinian political figure who met with senior Hamas officials in the past two weeks, including the organization's leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, said he believes Hamas has decided to relinquish civilian control of the Strip, and that the organization genuinely intends to let the Palestinian government rule the territory.

That decision, said the source, could lead to Hamas ceding control of the border crossings and guarantee the continued employment of Hamas-appointed personnel in the new arrangement, especially in regard to the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. The source stressed, however, that Hamas officials are keen to protect the organization's interests in the foreseeable future, particularly its military wing, and guarantee its economic independence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, members of his cabinet and dozens of senior government officials are expected to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Monday afternoon for the Palestinian Authority's first cabinet meeting in the Strip in three years. The delegation will enter through the Erez crossing.

In anticipation, the Gazan Interior Ministry announced that the Strip's police force is on high alert and will deploy large numbers of police officers throughout Gaza City ahead of the Tuesday cabinet session.

An Egyptian military delegation arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, accompanied by the country's ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat. The Egyptian delegation has been invited in order to help supervise the reconciliation effort on the ground.

In a phone conversation on Sunday, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed the need to move the reconciliation forward and close the remaining gaps between Hamas and Fatah during the upcoming talks.

Gazans are hopeful that Tuesday's cabinet session will be followed by a rollback of the sanctions imposed on the Strip and its Hamas government over the past several months by the Abbas.

The position of the United States and Israel on the growing moves toward Palestinian reconciliation is still an open question.

Observers in Ramallah and in Gaza City believe the silence from Washington and Jerusalem is rooted in an agreement on the subject with Cairo, the main power behind the reconciliation effort. It may also reflect a belief that a successful reconciliation could benefit U.S. President Donald Trump's plan to renew Israeli-Palestinian negotiation efforts within a few months.

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