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Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases

Rami Hamdallah's convoy crosses into Gaza (02/10/17)Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Large crowds turned out to welcome PM Hamdallah as his convoy crossed into Gaza

The Palestinian prime minister is making a rare trip to Gaza as part of efforts to end a rift between Fatah and Hamas, which controls the territory.

Rami Hamdallah’s visit comes after Hamas disbanded its administration to make way for a unity government.

Previous attempts at reconciliation have failed, and there are difficult obstacles which still stand in the way.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since the rift erupted in violence in 2007.

Hamas won parliamentary elections in the occupied territories the previous year, and reinforced its power in the Gaza Strip after ousting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction from the enclave.

“We are determined to… bury the chapter of division so that the homeland can be reunited,” Mr Hamdallah said on the eve of his visit.

Hundreds of jubilant flag-waving Palestinians, and a Hamas police honour guard, welcomed Mr Hamdallah as he arrived in Gaza with a large delegation of Palestinian Authority (PA) personnel.

Last month, Hamas agreed to dissolve the administrative committee which runs Gaza and to the holding of general elections for the first time since 2006.

The move was facilitated by neighbouring Egypt, whose relations with Hamas have improved in recent months.

Cairo has long seen Hamas as a security threat and has taken tough measures against it, but there have been signs of growing co-operation between the two sides.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Palestinians have been ruled separately in the West Bank and Gaza since 2007

An Egyptian delegation, and the UN’s Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, have also gone to Gaza to oversee the transition.

Egypt and Israel, Hamas’ 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.

Despite the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah, a number of issues are yet to be resolved.

It is unclear to what extent Hamas will allow the PA’s forces to take over security roles, and what will happen to thousands of Hamas civil servants who have not been on the PA’s payroll for the past decade.

Israel also resolutely opposes any involvement by Hamas in the PA. Along with several countries and organisations, Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group and has said it will not deal with a Palestinian government that contains Hamas members.

98106483 mediaitem98106482 - Palestinian PM in rare Gaza visit as rift with Hamas eases

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