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Palestinian prime minister in 'historic visit' to Gaza

After a decade of divide, the Palestinian Authority is expected to take over the administration of the Gaza Strip.

People gather as the convoy of Palestinian Prime Minister

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in the occupied Gaza Strip on Monday, in the latest effort at national reconciliation between the West Bank-based PA and the Hamas government in Gaza.

In a press conference upon his arrival, Hamdallah described the visit as a "historic moment" towards unity of the Palestinian people.

"We came at the orders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to announce to the world, from the heart of Gaza that the Palestinian state cannot be without political and geographic unity between the West Bank and Gaza

"We know that the only way to achieve our goals is through unity, and to protect the Palestinian political system," said Hamdallah, adding that the national unity government would start to assume its administrative responsibility of the Strip.

The premier also announced that several committees have been established to handle issues such as border crossings and PA employees in the Strip.

The visit is Hamdallah's first to Gaza in two years. 

"We look forward to turning over the page of division forever, and achieving comprehensive national reconciliation that would strengthen the perseverance of our people and preserve their rights," Iyad al-Buzom, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, said in a statement ahead of the visit. 

Hamdallah will also be visiting the Shujayea neighbourhood, where the Israeli army committed a massacre during the 2014 war on Gaza. 

An Egyptian security delegation led by the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Hazem Khairat, will be monitoring the reconciliation process. 


READ MORE: Hamas ready to reconcile with Fatah - reports


After a Hamas delegation met Egyptian diplomats in Cairo late last month, the movement decided it would dissolve its administrative committee and expressed its willingness to reconcile with its rival, the Fatah political party, after a decade of division. 

"Hamas's decision to respond to Abbas's intitiative and to dissolve the administrative committee is an important step that we will build on with lots of work," Hamdallah said at the press conference. 

Hamas has been the de-facto ruler in the Gaza Strip since 2007 after the party defeated President Mahmoud Abbas' long-dominant Fatah party in parliamentary elections.

Hamas then pushed Fatah out of Gaza in a bloody conflict, when the latter refused to recognise the result of the vote. Hamas and Fatah have ruled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively ever since, and multiple attempts at reconciliation have since failed for several reasons. 

The latest attempt in 2014 was thwarted when Israel launched a 51-day war against Gaza. 

Hamas' control over security and its nature as an armed resistance movement have also constituted an obstacle for the PA, which cooperates with Israel on security-related matters, as laid out in the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 and 1995 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel. 

While administrative control will be handed over, the Hamas government will retain authority over security, a factor that political analysts say is likely to result in the failure of the unity government. 

Abdulsattar Qassem, a political science professor at the an-Najah University in Nablus in the occupied West Bank, said it was "very unlikely that there will be lasting reconciliation". 

"This is all just an exercise. The PA does not believe in the legitimacy of Hamas' arms. This means that the PA wants to end the resistance in Gaza and Hamas refuses that. And if Fatah accepts the resistance, Israel will take measures against the PA," Qassem said.

"This will inevitably lead to the destruction of the potential new unity government. For this reason, this week, and for the coming months, Hamas and Fatah will attempt not to speak about Oslo and the issue of resistance. At least, to appear successful before the Palestinian people. But at the end of the day, Israel will not accept this."

Over the last few months, Hamas has been under heavy pressure from Abbas' measures against Gaza, aimed at pressuring Hamas to relinquish control of the territory.

Punitive measures included cutting the salaries of PA employees living in Gaza and requesting Israel to reduce the electricity supply to the territory. 

Gaza-based political analyst Waleed al-Modallal says that in the short term, people are expecting the situation to improve. 

"There is an air of positivity and optimism on the street, but people are also cautiously watching. They are hopeful that this step will alleviate the difficult economic situation in Gaza, the border crossings will be open more often, the issue of PA employees will be solved, and that electricity [will] be returned," Modallal said. 

The issue of Hamas' armed resistance, he added, would not be discussed for at least a year. 

"Any noble Palestinian in Gaza would not accept giving up resistance under any condition, because we are a people under occupation. The PA would not be able to protect us, and that is clear in the West Bank - Israel enters the city centres and they are not able to defend themselves." 


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