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Hamas pursues Palestinian unity

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A Hamas delegation visiting Cairo has told Egyptian leaders Hamas is ready to meet with Fatah and discuss reconciliation.

The Head of Hamas’s political wing, Ismail Haniyeh, and other senior Hamas members met with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo for talks focusing on cross border security and Palestinian national reconciliation. A statement was issued that said they were discussing “mechanisms to ease the siege on Gaza and other issues of mutual concern”.

The delegation was reported to have told the Egyptians that Hamas is ready to hold meetings with the Fatah movement, who currently head the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), and reiterated claims it was ready to disband its administrative committee.

The administrative committee was formed in March, and led to accusations by the PA that Hamas was trying to form a shadow government in Gaza. This led to a series of sanctions from PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed the news and said that “reconciliation is critical to addressing the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza, preventing the continuing militant build-up and restoring hope for the future”. He urged all sides to “seize the current positive momentum and reach an agreement that would allow the Palestinian Government to immediately take up its responsibilities in Gaza”.

Russia has also reportedly been involved in talks about Palestinian unity. At a press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that Russia was talking with Arab countries that have ties with Hamas in order to promote reconciliation.

Writing in Haaretz, Zvi Barel argues that two parallel processes are happening with Hamas. Barel believes that the administrative council will continue negotiating with Egypt, with Mohammed Dahlan serving as mediator, in an effort to get the Egypt-Gaza border crossing permanently re-opened. Simultaneously, Hamas will resume talks with the PA on how to divide up government posts and prepare for new Palestinian presidential and legislative elections.

Relations between Fatah and Hamas have been severely strained ever since Hamas violently seized the Gaza Strip in 2007. There have been numerous attempts at reconciliation between the two factions since then, but none have come to fruition. Hamas remains in control of the Gaza Strip, and the PA retains sole authority in the Palestinian areas of the West Bank.