Palestinian factions agree to resolve differences, leaders say
JERUSALEM — Leaders of rival Palestinian factions said Thursday that they had agreed to resolve their differences and allow the Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip so reconstruction could begin there next month.
Palestinian and Egyptian state news media outlets reported that the leaders of Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza, and Fatah, the secular faction of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, had made progress on the sticking points of their 5-month-old reconciliation pact, including the payment of duplicative government workers, security forces in Gaza and control of its crossing points. But they offered no specifics on any of these issues, and two officials from the Palestine Liberation Organization said Thursday’s statements lacked substance.
“These rhetorics I have heard so many times,” said one leader who is close to Abbas, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations openly. “They reiterated once again the same agreement that they had in the past, with all the problems in that agreement. So I don’t think there is a direct solution to the issue of the employees or the security or whatever.”
The announcement in Cairo came a day before Abbas is scheduled to make his annual address to the U.N. General Assembly, where he plans to appeal for a new international approach to ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It followed Egyptian-brokered talks this week both among the feuding Palestinian factions and with Israel regarding terms for a durable truce after this summer’s bloody seven-week battle between Israel and Gaza-based militant groups led by Hamas.
This month, the United Nations announced that it had reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority and with Israel to facilitate the reconstruction of thousands of homes and other buildings destroyed across Gaza, though officials said details of how and when had not yet been determined.
Israel, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization and does not have direct dealings with it, has insisted that the Palestinian Authority must re-establish a presence inside Gaza before it will allow for any expansion of the crossings it controls to provide for the transfer of construction materials. Egypt, the United States and other Western powers have also pushed for increased Palestinian Authority presence in Gaza throughout the discussions of a cease-fire.
Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas political leader, said at a news conference in Cairo on Thursday that the sides had agreed to have the Palestinian reconciliation government sworn in June 2 oversee Gaza’s crossings. Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, quoted Marzook and Azzam al-Ahmad, the Fatah leader who has been coordinating talks with Hamas, both saying the new Palestinian government would soon take control of ministries in Gaza, and that a new committee would be formed to deal with the issues of employees, security, elections and reconvening the dormant Palestinian Parliament.