by Yona Schnitzer/TPS
In a dramatic move Sunday, Hamas declared that it is dissolving the administrative committee that has governed the Gaza Strip for the past decade and called upon the elected Palestinian government to return to the coastal enclave and to begin exercising its administrative duties immediately.
The decision was made following reconciliation meetings between Hamas and Fatah, mediated by Egyptian authorities and held in Cairo last week. In the statement, Hamas called for open general elections in the Palestinian Authority, as well as for the implementation of the reconciliation agreement signed between the two parties in 2011.
Hamas’ declaration serves as a prerequisite to full reconciliation with Fatah, and has come following a series of decisions by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to limit PA funds and resources in the Gaza Strip, cutting salaries for government employees.
Hamas’ decision, however, was taken unilaterally, and according to observers is aimed at putting the ball into the PA’s court.
“This may be good news coming out of Cairo in regards to reconciliation, but we need to make sure’, said Mahmoud al-Aloul, a senior Fatah member and deputy to Abbas, ‘We are fully aware of the damage this continued split is doing to the Palestinian issue, and we are ready to go as far as possible in order to restore unity.’
The Gaza Strip has been governed by Hamas since 2007, when the movement wrested control from Fatah in a violent coup. Over the past decade, there have been multiple attempts to reconcile between the two parties, though none have been successful.
As of this writing, Israeli officials have yet to react. However, following a similar initiative in 2014, then Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated that the signing of a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah is “a sign off on the end of negotiations between Israel and the PA.”