Hamas Has Relinquished Control of Gaza to Palestinian Authority, Official Says

Top Fatah committee to convene Sunday and discuss reconciliation agreement. Senior official: Deal will be implemented only if Palestinian Authority actually rules Gaza

People release pigeons in Gaza to show support for a unity deal between rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah, October 13, 2017.
MOHAMMED SALEM/REUTERS

As the Palestinian Authority made its first plans to begin ruling over both the West Bank and Gaza as part of a new reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah, the Islamist group said it had handed over control of the Strip to the PA.

Hamas deputy leader in Gaza, Khalil al-Hayya, said in an interview with the Hamas-affilated Al-Aqsa television, that from his point of view, the Palestinian prime minister of both the West Bank and Gaza is Dr. Rami Hamdallah. Hamdallah is prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah and seated in Ramallah in the West Bank.

Hayya added that the Palestinian government received full rule over the Gaza Strip. However, he conceded that the transferring of responsibility over key civilian portfolios, control of the border crossings and day to day administration, still required full coordination between Hamas and Fatah.

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Hayya said that it was decided in Egypt that the Rafah crossing would only be opened after it was handed to Palestinian Authority officials, and that Hamas would give up the collection of taxes and all finances would be in the hands of the government. On November 21, representatives of all the factions would meet in Cairo to discuss forming a new government, early elections for president and parliament, and reforms of the political structure, he said. Hayya did not mention the issue of Hamas’ military network.

A Palestinian man releases fireworks during celebrations after Hamas said it reached a deal with Palestinian rival Fatah, in Gaza City October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Suhaib Salem     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS

The Fatah Central Committee met Saturday night in Ramallah to hear a report from members who held talks in Cairo last week with Hamas leaders. It is believed a decision will be reached regarding the agenda for the next government meeting and the measured to be taken on the Gaza Strip.

A senior Fatah official told Haaretz that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the government will look at how the deal is implemented, and will not rely only on declarations. “Only if we are sure that the government is really ruling [in Gaza], will decisions be made about the implementation of government plans on the matter of Gaza,” the official said.

They added that lifting of economic sanctions against Hamas by the PA would also be contingent on changes on the ground. Ahead of unity talks in the summer, Abbas decided to cut PA's funding of Israel's electricity to Gaza in response to Hamas' refusal to accede to reconciliation attempts, plunging the Strip into an energy crisis.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniya watches coverage of reconciliation deal on October 12, 2017, at his office in Gaza City.
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have reached agreement on aspects of their reconciliation bid during talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo this week, Hamas said on Thursday. / AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED
MOHAMMED ABED/AFP

Tuesday will be two weeks since the Palestinian government first convened in Gaza, and people in the Strip confirm that no real change has taken place beside positive statements from Hamas and the PA. Some Palestinians have voiced criticism of the government, especially of Abbas, who has yet to lift the so-called sanctions placed on Gaza a number of months ago. In the meantime, no time frame from rescinding the edicts has been given.

Thus, implementing the agreement signed on Thursday hinges on good intentions of the different actors and, to a large extent, to the pressure Egypt exerts on them.

"We know that this was a division that has been in place for a decade and that things take time, but after two weeks you would expect something to start changing – for example, the issue of electricity," a Gazan who spoke to Haaretz said.

"As of today, like in recent months, there's never more than four hours of electricity," they said, referencing the frequent power outages that have plagued the coastal enclave since Abbas decision to freeze electricity funding.

The Palestinian said that Gazans expect the reconciliation to address basic issues, like healthcare and infrastructure, but that currently there seems to be a reluctance by the government to push through a change due to skepticism at Hamas' willingness to relinquish power.