Hamas, the Islamist-Palestinian militant group, said it will end its feud with political party Fatah in a decade-long conflict in the Palestinian territories.
The group has agreed to “dissolve” its Gaza administrative committee and to hold general elections in an effort toward unity. It described its decision as “courageous, serious and patriotic.”
The administrative committee was established earlier this year by Hamas to try and run Gaza independently, despite talks of unity with Fatah two months before. This angered Fatah leader, President Mahmud Abbas, who accused Hamas of trying to further its position in Gaza. He said that Hamas was trying to form a “shadow government” independent of the West Bank.
Since 2007, Hamas has governed the Gaza strip after a violent takeover from Fatah. But it was a pyrrhic victory because the area has faced a mounting humanitarian crisis.
Gaza already has one of the world’s highest unemployment rates. It then faced increasing pressure in June when Abbas asked Israel to cut electricity supply to the Gaza Strip’s two million residents. Israel has also dramatically reduced hundreds of exit permits for Gazans. According to Gisha, a non-profit organisation, the number of people entering Israel from Gaza has dropped by 40 per cent. Students are unable to study at the West Bank and families on either side of the partition struggle to unite.
Gaza’s position weakened further when Qatar, one of its major financial contributors, had its diplomatic ties cut with neighbouring Arab countries, resulting in a Gulf-Crisis. This, the FT reported, is the main reason for the change in Hamas’ position.
Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said meetings with Hamas were soon to be organised to begin working out a way forward.
“There will be tangible practical steps in the next few days, starting with the Palestinian national unity government resuming its work according to law in Gaza as it does in the West Bank, in order to continue its efforts to relieve the suffering of our people in the strip and work towards lifting the unjust blockade,” Mr Ahmad told official Palestinian news agency Wafa, as reported by the Telegraph.
In a decade-long conflict, it’s unclear whether both sides are willing to cede power in their territories when previous attempts have failed. Financial pressure on Hamas in 2014, for example, caused the group to fire rockets at Israel in retaliation. Some are doubtful, such as the Atlantic, who has already predicted doom for the reunification.
In the latest update, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is set to visit Gaza after Hamas agreed to unity. He has not visited the Strip since 2015.