GAZA: Hamas, its Gaza Strip stronghold cut off by the new military-backed government in Egypt, called upon rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday to end their six-year schism and form a unity government.
Abbas’s secular, US-backed Fatah faction lost a 2006 ballot to Islamist Hamas. They sat in an uneasy alliance until a civil war the following year left Hamas ruling Gaza while Abbas’s authority was limited to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Egypt brokered a Palestinian reconciliation deal in 2011 but it was never implemented. In Cairo, meanwhile, Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was toppled by the army, which treats Egypt’s Hamas neighbours as security threats.
“Our conditions do not allow for keeping up differences,” Ismail Haniyah, prime minister in the Gaza administration, said in a speech calling on Abbas and Fatah to renew dialogue with Hamas, schedule new elections and enter a temporary power-share.
“Let’s have one government, one parliament and one president,” Haniyah said.
The overture was received coolly by Fatah, whose leader, Abbas, is engaged in a new round of US-sponsored peace talks with Israel. Hamas refuses coexistence with the Jewish state.
Ahmed Assaf, a Fatah spokesman, said Haniyah’s speech “included nothing new, neither a clear plan nor a certain timetable”.
Pressured by the deterioration of ties with former regional backers Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, as well as by Mursi’s fall and the ensuing Egyptian crackdown on Palestinian tunnels used to smuggle arms and commercial goods into Gaza, Hamas is in steep financial decline.
Haniyah sought to soften tensions with Cairo, denying Egyptian accusations the group had intervened in the internal unrest on behalf of Mursi’s Islamist supporters.