Hamas Chief, UN's Middle East Envoy Discuss Gazans' Plight, Palestinian Reconciliation

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip are meanwhile seeking closer ties with Egypt, without help from rival Fatah elements

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh attends Id al-Firt prayers in Gaza City, Gaza, June 25, 2017.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

The United Nations envoy to the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov, met with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip on Monday, in an attempt to ease tensions between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and to discuss ways to improve the humanitarian situation in the Strip.

According to Palestinian sources, this was the second meeting between Mladenov and Haniyeh in less than a week. Last Thursday, the two met to discuss the electricity crisis in Gaza, and senior figures in the Ramallah-based PA were also present, the Gaza sources reported. It is unclear whether Mladenov is trying to coordinate moves to end the severe power shortage or to facilitate issuance of more permits by the PA for locals seeking medical treatment in Israel.

Websites affiliated with Hamas in the Strip report that attempts have been made recently to involve international actors such as the UN, along with Hamas and the PA, in an effort to promote intra-Palestinian reconciliation – or at least to prevent further escalation of the tensions between them.

The PA and its leader, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, are dissatisfied, reports say, with the recent rapprochement between Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, a bitter rival of Abbas and former member of his Fatah movement who has good ties with intelligence officials in Egypt.

The sources say that via Dahlan, Hamas has reached agreements with the Egyptians to ease Gaza’s energy crisis. For its part, however, the Gazan-based movement has denied that Dahlan played any role in fuel deliveries from Egypt two weeks ago, claiming they were a result of direct talks between the Hamas leadership and Egyptian officials.

This week, another Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for talks aimed at continuing coordination between the two sides. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said that the organization hopes to secure an agreement for the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza to be permanently open.

In the coming days, Abbas is also expected to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.