In Brief

Hamas reconciles with Palestinian Authority in Gaza

The Islamist group’s unity drive has been prompted by a funding shortfall resulting from the Qatar blockade

Hamas and the mainstream Palestinian Authority took a further step towards reconciliation on Monday as the West Bank-based Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah crossed into the Gaza Strip, more than a decade after the Islamist group seized control of the territory in a bitter civil war.

Hamas has been more open to working with the Palestinian Authority since Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott on its main donor, Qatar, over its alleged support of terrorism.

Last month, the group, which is still classed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, disbanded its Gaza shadow government before announcing last week that it was handing over administrative control of Gaza to a unity government headed by Hamdallah.

While the movement’s armed wing “remains the dominant power in the Palestinian enclave of two million people”, Reuters says, the “narrowing internal divisions could help western-backed [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas counter Israel’s argument that it has no negotiating partner for peace with the Palestinians”.

Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, played down the unity drive, saying “it happens every two or three years”. Hamas remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction, he said, and if the group was able to retain its arms, peace negotiations would be a “a non-starter for Israel”.

The new Palestinian unity cabinet is expected to meet in Gaza on Tuesday to set a date for presidential and parliamentary elections.

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