Palestinians seek new tone in Gaza

GAZA: Prime Minister Rami al Hamdallah chaired the first meeting of the Palestinian cabinet in the Gaza Strip for three years on Tuesday, in a move towards reconciliation between the mainstream Fatah party and Hamas.
Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 in fighting with Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and has ruled the impoverished desert enclave of two million people since then.
The cabinet session was the first in Gaza since 2014, Hamdallah told his ministers, and a major step in a reconciliation process promoted by neighbouring Egypt and other Arab countries.
“Today, we stand before an important, historical moment as we begin to get over our wounds, put our differences aside and place the higher national interest above all else,” Hamdallah said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meeting legislators from his right-wing Likud party, said the Palestinians were engaging in “fictitious reconciliations” and he referred to foreign funding for Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
“The way we see it is very simple: Recognise the State of Israel, dismantle the Hamas military wing, cut the ties to Iran, which calls for our destruction,” he said in remarks broadcast on Army Radio.
Hamas last month disbanded its Gaza shadow government.
But while Hamas handed over administrative responsibilities to a unity government originally formed three years ago, its armed wing remains the dominant force in Gaza.
A first sign of discontent was quickly evident in the new reconciliation drive: Hamas criticised Abbas’s decision to await the outcome of talks Fatah plans to hold with the group in the next two weeks before lifting sanctions he has imposed on Gaza.
“The government has assumed its responsibilities in Gaza and therefore, delay is not justified,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
“There is no excuse for delaying or undermining measures that would ease the suffering of Gaza’s people.”
Abbas halted payments for Israeli-supplied electricity to the enclave in June, a step that has led to long daily blackouts, and he also cut salaries for Gaza civil servants.
Abbas told Egyptian TV station CBC on Monday there could be only “one state, one regime, one law and one weapon” in the Gaza Strip, reiterating a long-held position that security should be in the hands of only the Palestinian Authority (PA), which he heads, and that the PA must control border crossing points.
Egypt — whose intelligence chief arrived in Gaza to meet Hamas leaders, Hamdallah and officials from other Palestinian factions — maintain a partial blockade of Gaza, citing security concerns. — AFP