Hamas agrees to end decade-long rift, hold general elections in Gaza

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Paving the way for possible reconciliation between the West Bank and Gaza, Hamas said Sunday it would dissolve the Gaza administrative committee, allowing a Palestinian unity government to work in its place and move toward general elections.

Hamas and Fatah fought a short civil war in Gaza in 2007 and since then Hamas has governed the small coastal enclave.

In April 2014, Hamas, Fatah and the PLO factions signed on Shatti (Beach) agreement at the house of the current Hamas chief Ismail Haneya in western Gaza, and agreed to form a consensus technocrat government that runs both Gaza and the West Bank headed by Rami Hamdallah.

Hamas had previously demanded that Abbas halt a series of measures taken against Gaza before sitting down to discuss a reconciliation deal.

The group also urged implementation of a 2011 agreement that calls for the establishment of a national unity government.

The latest announcement comes days after Hamas Egyptian officials met in Cairo for a reconciliation discussions.

"If the news is correct, that is good and positive", Fatah Vice Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul said in a statement posted on Fatah's official Facebook page.

In Sunday's statement, Hamas spoke of the "dissolution" of what is known as the administrative committee, which was seen as a rival government to Abbas's administration.

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The group said it was "responding to the generous Egyptian efforts, which reflect the Egyptian desire to end the split and achieve reconciliation, and based on our desire to achieve national unity".

Gaza has effectively been under siege by Israel since Hamas came to power in 2007, but has received most of its electricity and fuel from Israel ever since, subsidised by the PA.

In recent months, Abbas has stiffened financial pressure against Hamas, cutting back electricity payments to force Hamas to end the dispute over the rule of the enclave.

Israel's increasing restrictions on exit permits for Gaza residents, an escalating sewage crisis that is contaminating the strip's beaches, and high levels of unemployment, are all contributing to a mounting sense of exhaustion in the strip.

There also was no comment from Abbas' government.

The Egypt-sponsored talks were held after parallel negotiations between Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled senior Fatah leader and Abbas' main political rival.

Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on Gaza since the Hamas' takeover, although Egypt intermittently opens its border crossing into Gaza.

"Hamas wants to improve the situation in Gaza, but it doesn't want to give up control of it", Bjorn said.

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