Hamas agrees to steps towards Palestinian unity

Major General Yoav Mordechai meets with New York Archbishop Cardinal Timothy Dolan

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip, also said it was ready for talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah on forming a unity government and holding elections.

Gaza has remained under a crippling embargo imposed by Israel and Egypt since 2007, when Hamas wrested the territory from Fatah after sweeping Palestinian legislative polls one year earlier.

In 2014, Hamas and Fatah agreed to form a national reconciliation government, but Hamas has continued to rule the Gaza Strip alone until now.

There have been numerous attempts since 2011 by Hamas and Fatah to reconcile, but all failed.

Hamas said in a statement on Sunday that it has dissolved its shadow government, that it will allow the reconciliation government to operate in Gaza and that it agrees to hold elections and enter talks with Fatah.

Hoping to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Abbas has cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza.

The announcement also came two days after a Fatah delegation arrived in Cairo and two meetings between the parties on Saturday. "We in the Fatah movement are ready to implement reconciliation".

COGAT inspector caught three rifle butts and a scope smuggled by Hamas in mail being delivered to Gaza Sept. 11 2017
COGAT inspector caught three rifle butts and a scope smuggled by Hamas in mail being delivered to Gaza Sept. 11 2017

United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, welcomed the statement by Hamas, and commended the Egyptian authorities for their "tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum".

The move towards reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions comes after the recently resolved energy crisis in Gaza, which was precipitated by the PA's June decision to pay only 60 percent of the coastal territory's monthly electricity bill, amidst an ongoing feud with Hamas.

The unemployment rate now stands at 42 percent in Gaza, infrastructure for water and electricity do not meet its residents' basic needs and half of the population relies on humanitarian aid.

The Hamas capitulation follows months of repression on the part of the Palestinian Authority, which deprived the Gaza Strip f electric power.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pictured here in Tehran with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. There was no immediate comment from Abbas's government, and a senior Palestinian official was guarded in his optimism.

A key sticking point in the past was Hamas' refusal to place its security forces in Gaza under the control of an Abbas-led unity government.

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