Palestinian rivals end 10-year rift

Maltese aid worker hopes the world will not put obstacles in this ‘fragile moment of hope’ as Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah broker unity deal in Egypt

Palestinian unity is cause for hope
Palestinian unity is cause for hope

Palestinian rival factions Hamas and Fatah have brokered a deal to end the decades-long rift that saw them rule Gaza and the West Bank separately.

The agreement brokered by Egypt was unveiled today in Cairo where reconciliation talks have been held.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since deadly clashes between the two groups broke out in 2007. Hamas ruled Gaza, while Fatah governed in the West Bank.

The deal is believed to cover security, administrative and border crossing arrangements in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas removed one of the last obstacles to the deal last month when it dissolved the committee that ruled Gaza, a demand made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Abbas heads the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognised body, dominated by Fatah and which governs parts of the West Bank.

Karl Schembri, a Middle East media advisor with an aid agency, who lived for four years in Palestine, told MaltaToday the reconciliation and creation of a national unity government was critical for the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

“Both parties found the courage to do what is right and one hopes they will follow through their words with action,” he said.

Mr Schembri noted that some two million people in Gaza remained under a crippling siege that cut them off from the rest of the Palestinian territory and the world.

Egypt and Israel, Hamas’s chief adversary, have maintained a blockade around Gaza since 2006. Hamas calls for Israel’s destruction and has fought three wars with the Jewish state.

Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.

Mr Schembri said 80% of civilians in Gaza depended on humanitarian aid and more than 5,500 houses destroyed in Israel’s last war on Gaza three years ago have yet to be rebuilt.

With some 350,000 people in 67 communities across the West Bank at risk of forcible transfer and with the Israeli government having given 11,000 demolition orders affecting 13,000 structures, Mr Schembri believes this is reason enough for unity to prevail.

“It cannot be more obvious why Hamas and Fatah need to overcome their internal divisions. This is the only way forward for advancing any prospects for a viable Palestinian state. One hopes that the rest of the world will not put any obstacles at this fragile moment of hope,” he said.

Hamas is designated a terrorist group by Israel, the US, EU, UK and other powers.

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