After Hamas Folds, Palestinian Government to Convene in Gaza for First Time in Years

Palestinians confirm Hamas and Fatah leaders will discuss all issues related to governing Gaza, including control over border crossings

Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh flashes the victory gesture upon his arrival on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh flashes the victory gesture upon his arrival on the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, in the southern Gaza Strip on September 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATI SAID KHATIB/AFP

The Palestinian Authority will convene in the Gaza Strip next week for the first time in three years as part of a push for reconciliation between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions. 

PA spokesman Yousef Mahmoud told Haaretz that the officials will travel to Gaza next Monday and convene on Tuesday for their weekly cabinet meeting.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and ministers would travel to Gaza next Monday "to begin assuming the responsibilities of the government," he said.

Hamdallah said that he would be going to the Gaza Strip in order to assess issues related to the strip's governance, and the urgent problems it is facing in light of of the siege that the population has endured.

"I expect all donor countries and Arab countries to help us, to increase aid to the Gaza Strip and work to lift the siege," Hamdallah said.

According to Mahmoud, Hamas and Fatah leaders will meet to discuss all issues of governance, including the control of border crossings. Both sides say they are approaching the recent effort for reconciliation with extreme caution. 

At the same time, Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sanwar, said that Hamas would do all that it can to to aid the government, and to make sure that the meeting between the two factions will be successful. 

The planned meeting would follow a decade of division and distrust and false starts at reconciliation. The factions split after Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary election, winning control of the strip from Fatah, the party led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and before him, Yasser Arafat, one of its founders.The following year the tensions exploded into extreme violence, leaving 356 people dead, many of them aligned with Fatah, and Hamas ousting Fatah from Gaza. Fatah has continued to control the West Bank.

Current tensions include Hamas’ claims that Abbas has not called off sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip – including the slashing of tens of thousands of government employee salaries – even though he said he would after Hamas rescinded its administrative control of Gaza.

Meanwhile, the PA said that while in Gaza next week it plans to assess just how serious Hamas is about handing over control to its ministers and letting a united Palestinian Authority rule there.

The last time PA ministers came to Gaza was in 2014 after a conference of donor countries gathered there as part of efforts to help Gaza rebuild after the devastation of Operation Protective Edge that left over 2,000 Gaza residents dead and swaths of the strip in ruins. 

The several ministers who came to Gaza at the time were blocked by Hamas from acting in any official capacity and prevented from even entering their offices there.

The central issues the two sides will be discussing are control over border crossings, security arrangements and the inclusion of Hamas as government workers.

In an effort to boost the chances that this reconciliation attempt might stick, both sides said they are considering inviting an Egyptian delegation to help oversee the effort on the ground.