PALESTINE’S Fatah and Hamas parties signed a deal in Cairo yesterday to bring the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip under one authority.
The breakthrough in unity after 10 years of schism came after two days of talks in the Egyptian capital.
That was preceded by months of diplomacy culminating last week in the first Palestinian cabinet meeting to be held in Gaza for three years.
Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khalid Fawzi presided over the signing by Hamas representative Saleh al-Arouri and Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed.
The deal was a reactivation of the unity pact signed in Cairo in May 2011 that was fiercely opposed by occupying Israel.
Mr Ahmed told reporters after the ceremony there was “full agreement” to form a national unity government to assume full authority in Gaza.
“What has been announced is the essence of what has been agreed upon and not everything that has been reached,” the Fatah central committee member said, indicating deeper reconciliation lay ahead.
He said before he left for the talks Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told him not to come back without a reunification agreement.
“We must close the page of division forever to unite the efforts of the Palestinian people with all its forces, specially Fatah and Hamas, so that we can confront the occupation in order to realise the Palestinian dream of ending the occupation and establishing our sovereign state with Jerusalem as its capital,” Mr Ahmed said.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement: “Fatah and Hamas reached an agreement at dawn today under generous Egyptian auspices.”
A statement from the Egyptian government thanked the rival parties and Mr Abbas, “who had the desire and the real will to end the division and restore the unity of the brotherly Palestinian people.”
Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007 — after Fatah annulled legislative elections, alleging ballot fraud after losing out to the Muslim Brotherhood-allied party.
Israel responded by imposing a siege on the coastal enclave that borders Egypt’s Sinai desert peninsula.
Israel launched two military campaigns against Gaza in 2008 and 2014 that killed thousands of civilians.
Earlier this year Egypt began fuel shipments to Gaza’s diesel-burning power station in response to Israeli power cuts.