Palestinian prime minister leaves Gaza after reconciliation visit

GAZA CITY: Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah left the Gaza Strip on Thursday after a four-day visit aimed at reconciliation with rival party Hamas.
Hamas agreed to hand over power to a unity government last month and Hamdallah’s visit, the first since 2015, saw his ministers take control of ministries in Gaza.
The move is part of wider attempts to end a decade-long split between the internationally recognised Palestinian Authority, which is based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, which runs Gaza.
The two sides are set to meet for further talks in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Tuesday.
Before leaving on Thursday morning, Hamdallah and a number of his ministers visited the largest hospital in the Gaza Strip, as well as a desalination plant.
He then left with his ministers through the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, which is controlled by Israel.
He is due to return to Ramallah in the West Bank where a meeting of senior members of Fatah will be held.
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said the Fatah meeting would discuss the next steps towards reconciliation ahead of the Cairo talks.
“National unity is a noble goal for us and we have high hopes for it, because without it there is no Palestinian state,” Abbas said, in remarks carried by state news agency Wafa.
Hamas, in a statement, said: “The Gaza Strip and its ministries are under the administration of the national reconciliation government. Hamas will work to support and strengthen its role.”
One of the main stumbling blocks to reconciliation is likely to be Hamas’s military wing, with senior officials rejecting the idea of disarming.
Hamas has appointed as its deputy leader a military official accused of organising multiple deadly attacks against Israelis.
“Salah al Aruri was elected deputy to (Hamas leader) Ismail Haniya” after a vote of its 18-member political bureau.
Aruri, who lives in exile after having spent almost two decades in Israeli jails. Aruri was based in Syria for a number of years but is now resident in Lebanon, according to senior Hamas sources.
His appointment follows the election in February of another military leader, Yahya Sinwar, as Hamas’s Gaza chief.
Analysts say Sinwar is technically third in command following Aruri’s appointment but has strong support in the military wing.
Aruri joined Hamas in 1987 and helped establish a military wing for the movement in the West Bank, according to Hamas media.
He was jailed by Israel for 15 years after being convicted of forming military cells in the territory. — AFP