by: Ilse Posselt
Friday, 13 October 2017 | After more than a decade of strife, bloodshed and bitter contention that has left the Palestinian people divided, the two main role-players in the Palestinian political landscape—rival factions Fatah and Hamas—yesterday inked a reconciliation agreement in Cairo. According to the Hamas deputy political leader, Saleh al-Arouri, the agreement will unite all Palestinian forces in order to “work together against the Zionist enterprise.”
The agreement is the culmination of a series of talks between Hamas, the terror group reigning over the people of Gaza with an iron grip of fear and indoctrination, and Fatah, the so-called secular Palestinian political party under the leadership of Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, which began on Tuesday in the Egyptian capital.
Commenting on the agreement, Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyah vowed, “We will go to any length to implement the agreement and turn over a new leaf in the annals of our people, forever closing the book on our divisions.”
For his part, Abbas confirmed that an accord has been reached, calling it the “final agreement to end [Palestinian] division.”
The so-called “division” refers to more than ten years of bitter enmity between the two rival Palestinian parties, which began in earnest after the last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006. Hamas scored a surprise victory against Fatah and the terror group’s elective, Ismail Haniyeh, became the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas continued to simmer and finally erupted in a violent conflict known as the Battle of Gaza in June 2007. Over the course of five bloody days, Hamas combatants seized control of the coastal enclave, murdered various Fatah officials and drove the rest from the Strip. Fatah fled in a cloud of disgrace to its stronghold in parts of Judea and Samaria, where it continues to govern pockets of the Palestinian population, while Hamas remained in the Strip to rule over the Gazan people.
The ensuing decade did little to diffuse the discord. Various attempts to reconcile the two parties and form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the pockets of Judea and Samaria that the Palestinians govern proved unsuccessful. The animosity between the two parties escalated over the past six months, with Abbas taking radical steps in a bid to pressure the terror group to renounce control over the coastal enclave.
These steps include crippling sanctions, slashing salaries paid to the Gazan government, denying Gazan patients access to Israeli hospitals, refusing to foot the bill for Israel’s electricity supply to the Strip and ceasing its shipments of diesel fuel to the coastal enclave to run the sole power station. Cash-strapped and power-starved, with an unemployment rate of 42% and half of its residents relying on humanitarian aid to survive, Gaza’s rulers found themselves in a stranglehold.
Abbas’s tactics proved efficient. Last month, Hamas announced that it is ready to bury the hatchet. The terror group vowed to dissolve the administrative committee that ruled the coastal enclave, welcome the Abbas’s government back to the Strip to operate in its place and hold the first united Palestinian elections in over ten years.
Now, less than a month later, the reconciliation deal has been sealed. The terms of the accord entail that Hamas will hand over full control of the Gaza Strip to the PA by 01 December 2017. Moreover, a senior Palestinian official told AFP that some 3,000 PA police officers are set to be deployed in the coastal enclave as early as 01 November 2017. “This effectively means the PA would resume both security and civil responsibility [in Gaza],” he said.
However, Israel Radio states that Hamas—a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist party that several governments, including the United States, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the European Union have inscribed on their terror list and that has the destruction of the Jewish state inscribed in its charter—refused to disarm, a demand which Abbas insisted on in the past. Reports from Egypt indicate that the terror group instead agreed that it would refrain from using its weapons unless the unity government agreed to do so. It does, however, remain unclear how Hamas plans to deal with its 25,000-strong military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigade.
For its part, Israel warned of the adverse effects of yesterday’s agreement. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas makes peace [with Israel] much harder to achieve,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cautioned on his Facebook page.
Hamas’s determination to continue “to dig tunnels, manufacture missiles and initiate terrorist attacks against Israel are incompatible with… the efforts of the United States to renew the diplomatic process,” he said.
Israel, he continued, would stand against “any reconciliation in which the terrorist organization Hamas does not disarm and end its war to destroy Israel. Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Say yes to peace and no to joining hands with Hamas.”
According to The Times of Israel, a government source from the Jewish state revealed that Israel will not recognize a unity Fatah-Hamas Palestinian government unless the terror group disarms, ceases all terror activities and recognizes Israel.
“Any reconciliation between the (Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority) and Hamas must include a commitment to international agreements and to the conditions of the Quartet, first of which is recognizing Israel and demilitarizing Hamas.”
The official further indicated that “so long as Hamas does not disarm and continues to call for the destruction of Israel, Israel sees the group as responsible for any terror activity coming out of Gaza.”
“Israel demands that the Palestinian Authority does not allow any Hamas terror activities to be undertaken from the PA authority’s territories in Judea and Samaria as well as from Gaza, if indeed the PA gains control there. Israel will examine developments on the ground and react accordingly.”
Posted on October 13, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 13 October, 2017)
Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube/Al Jazeera English
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