Rival Palestinian Groups Hamas and Fatah Reach Agreement Over Control of Gaza Strip

Senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri (left) sits next to Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad as they sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on Thursday. Under the agreement, Hamas would cede control of the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority by Dec. 1.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images

With kisses on the cheek in a gleaming hall of Egypt’s intelligence services, leaders of rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah reached an agreement for Hamas to hand over control of the Gaza Strip to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

The deal is just an early step in a longer process that could end a decade-long split that has nearly paralyzed Palestinian political leadership and increased the misery for Gazans in need of jobs and aid.

According to the agreement, the Western-backed Palestinian Authority will resume all governing responsibilities in Gaza no later than Dec. 1.

Attempts at reconciliation in recent years fell apart. If this deal succeeds, the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza will be reunited under one leadership for the first time since the Islamist militant group Hamas wrested control of the territory 10 years ago.

“Our house is one. Our suffering is one. Our fate is one. Our future is one,” senior Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri said in televised remarks Thursday after two days of marathon talks mediated by Egypt.

Fatah officials said the two sides agreed that the Palestinian Authority would take over responsibility for Gaza’s border crossings no later than Nov. 1 and that full governing responsibilities would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the beginning of December.

In 2007, when the two groups could not agree on sharing power, Hamas drove Fatah leaders out of Gaza and wrested control of the seaside territory, leaving Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in control only of parts of the West Bank.

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SOURCE: NPR, Daniel Estrin