In Brief

Hamas and Fatah sign power-sharing deal

Agreement ends decade-long rivalry and relieves humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Palestine’s rival ruling factions have signed a reconciliation deal that ensures a unity government across Gaza and the West Bank.

Following months of reconciliation talks brokered by Egypt, representatives of Fatah and the militant group Hamas agreed a deal in Cairo described by The Independent as “the biggest step forward for intra-Palestinian relations in a decade”.

The agreement will see administrative control of the Gaza Strip handed to a Fatah-backed “government of national accord”, in exchange for lifting sanctions.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since Hamas seized control of the coastal enclave in 2006. Deadly clashes followed in a “decade-long territorial, political and ideological split that has crippled statehood aspirations”, says The Guardian’s Peter Beaumont.

 Since then, the Gaza Strip has been subjected to an Israeli blockade and Fatah strangulation of electricity and other resources, leaving its two million residents almost entirely dependent on aid.

A key component of the deal is the agreement to reopen the Rafa crossing between Gaza and Egypt, which could greatly ease Gaza’s humanitarian crisis by allowing freedom of trade and movement. It also contains a pledge to hold local and presidential elections within a year.

A new chapter?

Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil said the deal was “a new chapter in Palestinian history”. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who plans to travel to Gaza for the first time in a decade, told the AFP news agency he welcomed the agreement and considered it “the final deal to end the division”.

The breakthrough “has been driven by the changing dynamics in the wider Middle East, which has seen Egypt move to displace Qatar and Turkey as the key broker in Palestinian affairs, with both Hamas and Fatah increasingly reliant on Cairo’s sponsorship”, says Beaumont.

However, “serious hurdles remain unresolved”, says The New York Times, “including the status of the Hamas militant wing and its estimated 25,000 fighters”.

And this is not the first time the two factions have reached an agreement: a similar deal in 2011 came to nothing. However, Palestinian officials believe the new truce has a greater chances of success because it is backed by Saudi Arabia, the US and - supposedly - Israel.

The Independent described Israel’s initial reaction to the news as “cautious” however, while France 24 quoted an Israeli government statement which said any deal must comply with “international agreements” for Hamas to disarm and recognise the state of Israel.

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