Fatah and Hamas Sign Agreement to End Hostilities

Celebrations in Gaza (Illustration)

Rival Palestinian Factions Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement on Thursday to end hostilities between their two governments, ending a decade-long row between the two factions. This is the biggest step in internal Palestinian politics since Hamas won the election in Gaza in 2007.

The signing of the preliminary agreement took place in Cairo after the Egyptian government acted as the arbiter between the two sides during talks that were held recently. Khalid Fawzi, Egypt’s chief of intelligence, presided over the official ceremony that saw Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed and Hamas’s representative Saleh al-Arouri smiling and shaking hands.

What is worrisome for Israel is that this agreement will likely lead to a Unity government that will preside over both the West Bank and Gaza and be comprised of elements from both factions. Hamas has not ceased its hostility towards Israel since the 2007 take over of the Gaza Strip, while Fatah has recently cooled relations with Israel and ceased security collaboration and cooperation in the Judea and Samaria.

According to reports coming from the factions the deal, which was technically drafted in 2011 but never implemented, deals with border-crossing arrangements and the livelihoods of thousands of public servants. It leaves out some key issues, such as Hamas’s arsenal.

“We have decided to take a step-by-step approach to implementing reconciliation. Talks this time were aimed at allowing the unity government to operate fully in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank,” said al-Arouri.

One senior Palestinian official told the French news agency AFP that the agreement is set to include some 3,000 Palestinian Authority police officers deployed in the Gaza Strip and near its border crossings with Israel and Egypt. The deployment is set to occur no later than November 1. Consequently, Egypt has reportedly agreed to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in an effort to help facilitate the agreement at that time.

“This effectively means the Palestinian Authority would resume both security and civil responsibility (in Gaza)”, the official said.

According to an Egyptian official, another part of the agreement states that administrative control of Gaza is to be handed over from Hamas to the Palestinian unity government no later than December 1.

(This story was written by the Israel staff after Shmini Atzeret ended in Israel)