Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah sign deal in Cairo

Image copyrightAFP
Image caption Hamas runs Gaza and Fatah controls the West Bank

Hamas and Fatah have signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo, ending a decade-long rift between the two Palestinian factions.

The deal is believed to cover security, administrative and border crossing arrangements in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt has been brokering the reconciliation talks in Cairo.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between the two groups broke out in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in Gaza after ousting Fatah from the enclave.

While the full details of Thursday’s agreement have yet to be announced, negotiators from both groups said that the security changes include the handing over of control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to a unity government.

Hamas also agreed to hand all administrative responsibilities in the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-backed government by December, according to an official statement released by Egypt.

Both sides called the agreement is a major breakthrough.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah (right) holds hands with Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh

‘Final agreement’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that the talks had led to a “final agreement” to end the rival split.

“I welcome the agreement,” he told the AFP news agency, adding: “I received a detailed report from the Fatah delegation about what was agreed and I considered it the final agreement to end the division.”

Mr Abbas is reportedly planning to travel to the Gaza Strip in the coming weeks in what would be his first visit to the territory in a decade.

Full details of the agreement are due to be announced later on Thursday.

What caused the rift?

Fatah, once the cornerstone of the Palestinian national cause, lost power in 2006 when Hamas won a stunning victory in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections.

Tensions between the two rivals caused numerous violent clashes in the Gaza Strip.

In early 2007, Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a coalition to end the growing factional violence. But in June of that year, Hamas seized Gaza by force and set up a rival government, leaving Fatah and the PA running parts of the West Bank not under Israeli control.

Mr Abbas later ruled out reconciliation with Hamas unless it gave up the Gaza Strip and submitted to his authority.

In April 2014, Hamas agreed a reconciliation deal with Fatah that led to the formation of a national unity government, but this has never been fully implemented.

Who controls what?

Hamas has largely controlled Gaza since it took power in 2006, while Fatah governs the Palestinian state on the West Bank.

As a result of Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip, the region has become the subject of Israeli restrictions with much of the population dependent on food aid.

Since 2006, Israel and Egypt have maintained a land and sea blockade on Gaza in an attempt to prevent attacks by Gaza-based militants. The measures have also led to electricity and fuel shortages.

The announcement of a deal, which includes the control of Gaza’s borders, has raised hopes among the territory’s two million residents that humanitarian conditions in will improve.

Earlier this month, Hamas allowed the Ramallah-based Palestinian unity government to take over public institutions in Gaza as part of a reconciliation process between the two rival administrations.

The move had been a key demand of Mr Abbas, whose Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority governs parts of the West Bank.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah then made a rare trip to Gaza. He said the Palestinian Authority would begin taking control of Gaza’s administrative affairs and “security responsibilities”.

Cairo talks ‘serious and deep’

The agreement on Thursday was announced by the pro-Hamas Palestinian Information Centre.

On Wednesday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the talks in Cairo had been “serious and deep”.

“The talks are positive and the Egyptian side is even-handed,” he said, according to the Palestinian Information Centre.

Image copyrightReuters
Image caption A Palestinian celebrates following the announcement by Hamas that it had reached a deal with Fatah

Hamas, which calls for Israel’s destruction, has fought three wars with the Jewish state.

Israel resolutely opposes any involvement by Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. It considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.

Hamas as a whole, or in some cases its military wing, is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, UK and other powers.

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