In a bid for national unity among Palestinians, Hamas has decided to dissolve its administrative committee in Gaza and expressed its awillingness to hold general elections.
Faced with repeated Israeli military attacks and systemic occupation of their land, Hamas aims to foster dialogue with Fatah and consolidate Palestinian unity.
Hamas released a statement saying that the group “invites the consensus government to come to Gaza to practice its mission and carry out its duties in the Gaza Strip immediately, and it accepts the holding of general elections." It also noted that the group agreed to key conditions outlined by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, who considered the Hamas government a parallel government.
The Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza since a brief Palestinian civil war in 2007, said it had taken “a courageous, serious and patriotic decision to dissolve the administrative committee” that runs the territory of two million people, and hand power to some form of unity government.
The development would “enable the formation of a national reconciliation government to work in the Gaza Strip and hold ... elections,” Abbas said in a statement on official news agency WAFA.
While Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip over the past decade, Fatah has maintained authority over autonomous enclaves located in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Hamas scored a surprise victory over Fatah in 2006, the last time Palestine held legislative elections. The victory transformed into a political rupture which resulted in a short civil war between the two groups in 2007.
Aiming to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Abbas cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to the enclave, leading to power provided for less than four hours on some days, and never more than six hours a day.
The two parties did not meet at the talks which took the form of shuttle-diplomacy with Egyptian officials mediating. Azzam Al-Ahmad, who headed the Fatah delegation, said the two sides planned to meet face-to-face but gave no date. Other Palestinian factions would join the talks later to discuss practical steps to implement the agreement, he added.
Mending fences with Western-backed Abbas would be another step in Hamas’ diplomatic push to improve relations with its neighbor Egypt, which has kept its frontier with Gaza largely closed and accused the group in the past of aiding Islamist militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert, something Hamas denies.
Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation administration but could not agree on the details.
Some opinion polls have shown that if parliamentary elections were held now, Hamas would win both in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the seat of Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
Abbas is 12 years into what was meant to be a four-year term as president and opinion polls show him to be unpopular. He has no clear successor and no new presidential election appears imminent.
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