Hamas Says Ready to Disband Gaza Administration, Hold Palestinian Elections

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Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in 2011
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in 2011Credit: Hatem Moussa / ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hamas announced Sunday morning it was ready to dissolve the administration it had established in recent months to manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip, hold general elections and immediately begin direct reconciliation talks with Fatah.

According to a statement from Hamas, this decision was a response to the Egyptian efforts at reconciliation between the principal Palestinian factions. The announcement called on Palestinian government ministers in Ramallah to come to Gaza and fully assume their roles.

Hamas' announcement comes at a sensitive time. On Sunday, Palestinian President Abbas will leave for New York for the United Nations General Assembly. He is to meet U.S. President Donald Trump there on Wednesday, ahead of Abbas' speech at the UN Thursday.

Mahmoud Aloul, a senior Fatah official welcomed cautiously Hamas's position. "If this is Hamas' statement, then this is a positive sign," he told Reuters. "We in the Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation."  

The PA is being careful not to talk about reconciliation with Hamas at this stage. It would therefore seem that they will wait to see how things actually develop and to what extent Hamas is truly willing to give up control of the Strip. At the same time, Hamas appears to be waiting to see how much Abbas is willing to cooperate with them and bring them into the institutions of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the PA.

An Egyptian source close to the intelligence services told Haaretz that Hamas is trying to prove to Egypt that it is not obstructing reconciliation and is responding to demands, hoping to reap the benefits if and when the talks falter on the PA's part.

Hamas' announcement came two days after a Fatah delegation's arrival in Cairo and two meetings between the parties on Saturday.

Abbas had called for the dissolution of Hamas' administration running the Strip, which he viewed as a shadow government, as a condition for renewing talks with Hamas and a freeze on measures taken against the Strip, such as a large cut in budgets earmarked for Gaza and the retirement of thousands of PA workers in the Strip.

Egyptian intelligence services have been conducting direct talks with Hamas over the past few months, principally regarding matters related to security, specifically securing the border between the Strip and the Sinai Peninsula due to Egypt's war against Islamic State in northern Sinai. Hamas has been using the talks to work towards easing the blockade on Gaza that Egypt enforces jointly with Israel. Hamas has been working towards opening the Rafah Crossing with Egypt and seeking a solution to the ongoing electricity crisis in the Strip.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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