World, Middle East

In nod to Fatah, Hamas disbands controversial committee

Gaza-based resistance group dissolves governing committee in first step towards reconciliation with Fatah

In nod to Fatah, Hamas disbands controversial committee FILE PHOTO

GAZA CITY, Palestine 

Hamas on Sunday announced it had dissolved an administrative committee set up earlier this year in a bid to promote reconciliation with rival Palestinian faction Fatah following unity talks held last week. 

In a statement, the Gaza-based resistance group stressed its appreciation for Egyptian efforts to end years of Palestinian political division, calling on the Ramallah-based Palestinian government to “immediately” assume a governing role in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas also called for general elections, stressing its readiness to hold talks with Fatah, the dominant Palestinian political faction headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The group also urged implementation of a 2011 agreement that calls for the establishment of a national unity government. 

But Khalil Shikaki, who heads the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an NGO that conducts monthly surveys on Palestinian public opinion, said Palestinians were unlikely to expect much from the announcement in the absence of anything concrete.

“Hamas wants to show it was the first to take steps [towards reconciliation], so if talks in Gaza don't come out [with an agreement], Hamas can say it was not at fault and put it at the foot of Abbas' government,” Shikaki told Anadolu Agency.

This way, he added, Hamas could also take credit in the event that the talks succeed.

“Most people have been disappointed in the past [by earlier reconciliation initiatives], so they are not likely to rush to celebrate at this point,” he said.

“They will want to wait and find out what exactly the outcome of talks in Egypt has been,” Shikaki added. 

The Egypt-sponsored talks were held after parallel negotiations between Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan, an exiled senior Fatah leader and Abbas’ main political rival.

Dahlan is sponsored by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, which both aided his recent re-entry into Palestinian politics through a deal that eased Gaza’s chronic electricity crisis and calls for the opening of Egypt’s border with Gaza on a permanent basis. 

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s envoy for the Israel-Palestine peace process, for his part, welcomed Hamas's announcement on Sunday. 

“All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people,” he declared in a statement. 

In March, Gaza’s Hamas-run government set up a committee tasked with streamlining administration in the coastal enclave -- a move that drew the ire of Abbas’s Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. 

Early last month, Hamas proposed a new reconciliation initiative that included promises to dissolve the committee -- a move Abbas has repeatedly demanded. 

On Sept. 9, a high-level Hamas delegation -- led by group political leader Ismail Haniya and Hamas Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar -- left the coastal enclave for Cairo, where they have held talks with senior Egyptian officials.

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. 

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