Hamas, Fatah sign reconciliation deal in Cairo

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Hani

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Hani

The deal brokered by Egypt bridges a bitter gulf between the Western-backed mainstream Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas, an Islamist movement designated as a terrorist group by Western countries and Israel.

Tahir en-Nunu, press adviser to Hamas ' political Bureau president Ismail Heniye, said, "Heniyye declares that Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement in morning at time of Egypt's mediation".

The reaction was Israel's first after the two major Palestinian factions agreed on a unity deal in the Egyptian capital on Thursday afternoon, which is supposed to see the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority retake control of Gaza from Islamists Hamas by December 1. Details of the deal will be made public at a news conference scheduled later for Thursday. Leaders of both Palestinian factions began met in Cairo for an extended dialogue in order to initiate a mechanism for implementing the reconciliation agreements reached in the last few years.

Israel viewed the Palestinian accord warily, saying it must abide by previous global agreements and terms set out by the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators - including the recognition of Israel and the disarming of Hamas.

Hamas does not recognise Israel and has fought three wars with the Jewish state since 2008.

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Also under the deal, Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt will be handed back to the Palestinian Authority in the coming weeks, with a November 1 deadline, according to Ahmad.

Repeated reconciliation attempts have failed since 2007.

Yahya Sinwar, Hamas's acting chief in Gaza, for his part, congratulated Abbas on the watershed agreement.

One of the key sticking points will be the fate of Hamas's 25,000-strong military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades.

Struggling with the fallout from the border blockade, Hamas has found it increasingly hard to govern or provide basic services, such as electricity. "Unity and national reconciliation among the Palestinian people are our strategic option for moving forward".

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