The Palestinian cabinet has met in the Gaza Strip for the first time in three years.
It’s an effort to reconcile the West Bank-based Fatah party, led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, with the Islamic group Hamas which currently rules Gaza.
The Palestinian prime minister chaired the meeting and appealed for both parties to unite.
“Today we are back again in Gaza to overcome all the obstacles and open the door for hope, will, and unity,” Rami Hamdallah said.
Palestinian Authority government convenes in Gaza for the first time in three years https://t.co/92wWEPe1qH pic.twitter.com/zHCzo9hmkx— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) October 3, 2017
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
But last month Hamas agreed to demands from Fatah to disband its administration in Gaza.
And it announced it was ready for both elections and negotiations about forming a unity government.
The hope is that a decade of bitter feuding will end, but most analysts are sceptical after previous attempts failed.
Hamas is still considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West.
Last month it disbanded its Gaza shadow government after Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott on its main donor, Qatar.
But while Hamas handed over administrative responsibilities to a unity government originally formed three years ago, its armed wing remains the dominant force in Gaza.
Abbas is based in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and heads the Palestinian Authority (PA) government that administers limited self rule in the territory.
A PA spokesman said Abbas would not lift sanctions on Gaza at this stage but rather await the outcome of talks planned between Fatah and Hamas in the next two weeks.
Pressuring Hamas to loosen its grip on Gaza, he halted payments for Israeli-supplied electricity to the enclave in June, a step that has led to lengthy, daily blackouts. He also withheld salaries for Gaza civil servants.
Both Israel and Egypt maintain a partial blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns.
Under previous understandings, some 3,000 Fatah security men would be integrated gradually into a Gaza police force overseen by an Interior Ministry headed by Hamdallah.
Hamas’s armed wing, analysts say, has at least 25,000 well-equipped fighters.
The United States, which is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that collapsed in 2014, is watching developments closely with the aim of improving humanitarian conditions in Gaza, Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy, said on Twitter.
But Greenblatt said: “The United States stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence, recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”
But Hamas has long rejected those conditions.