Middle East

Hamas and Fatah agree unity government's return to Gaza

Member of Palestinian Fatah party, Azzam al-Ahmad (L), meets with Hamas politburo member Musa Abu Marzouk (R) at a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, 24 September 2014 Image copyright EPA
Image caption The agreement was announced by representatives from Fatah and Hamas who met in Cairo

Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have agreed a "comprehensive" deal for a national unity government to take responsibility for running Gaza.

A cabinet backed by Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority, was unveiled in June.

But the move was eclipsed by Israel's conflict with militant groups in Gaza.

The territory has been governed by Hamas, which won the last parliamentary elections in 2006, since it ousted forces loyal to the PA in 2007.

The PA was left to run parts of the occupied West Bank not under Israeli control.

Earlier this month, PA President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of operating a "shadow government" in Gaza. Hamas denied the claim, calling it "against the reality".

Profound differences

The BBC's Kevin Connolly in Jerusalem says bringing unity between Hamas and Fatah is a strategic aspiration for the Palestinians - but differences between the factions are bitter and profound.

The new deal is described as "comprehensive", but not enough detail is being published to allow a real judgement on its prospects, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 100,000 Palestinians were left homeless by the war in Gaza

The terms of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that ended the 50-day Gaza conflict on 26 August require a Palestinian Authority presence in the territory.

Hamas had to accept those terms in return for the promise of help with reconstruction.

However, a Hamas official told the Associated Press that there were still disagreements over who should be responsible for paying civil servants in Gaza, and whether the PA's own security forces would be allowed a significant presence in the territory. He described the deal as "partial".

Our correspondent says Egypt and the many Western governments that help support the PA would like to enhance the unity government's influence in Gaza, but they will now have to wait and see if a deal which has been agreed in theory can be applied in practice.

The development comes ahead of negotiations between Israeli and the Palestinians in Cairo on the second stage of last month's ceasefire deal.

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the fighting, along with 66 Israeli soldiers and seven civilians in Israel.

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