Hamas has agreed to a reconciliation deal with the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah party brokered by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Arab media reported on Sunday.
However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party has yet to agree to the terms and has sent in a counter-offer. Sissi reportedly presented Abbas with the deal when the two met early in July in Cairo amid spiraling tensions between Hamas and Fatah.
The proposed deal includes Hamas dissolving a committee it formed to administer tasks historically carried out by the PA, as well as a commitment by Abbas to end harsh measures he has leveled against Gaza since April, including reductions in support payments for electricity, medical aid, and governmental salaries for residents of the Strip.
Unnamed Palestinian sources told the London-based Arabic daily al-Hayat that Abbas had initially accepted Sissi’s offer, but quickly reneged and instructed PA intelligence chief Majed Faraj to present Hamas with a counter-offer.
Hamas responded to Faraj’s offer by publicly announcing its own demands for any reconciliation deal.
The Gaza-based news site Safa also quoted unnamed Palestinian officials who confirmed the report.
Hamas, an Islamist terrorist group, wrestled control of Gaza from Abbas’s PA in a bloody coup in 2007. Years of reconciliation efforts have so far yielded nothing.
Sissi’s offer also calls for allowing the so-called Palestinian consensus government, which currently means the PA, to operate unhindered in the Strip, for Hamas employees to be given jobs in the government, for the organization of Palestinian general elections and for the holding of talks in Cairo between all Palestinian factions.
Rather than respond to Faraj’s offer, which was reportedly made via a phone call on July 27, Hamas publicly announced its own demands on Tuesday, which included absorbing all of Hamas’s employees into the government, and the creation of an interim leadership before elections that would include representation from Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
According to the reports, the PA is pursuing the reconciliation deal in order to cut off the quickly growing ties between Hamas and Abbas’s rival Mohammed Dahlan.
Dahlan, who now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, has been moving closer to Hamas in recent months, and the two sides have openly discussed a new power-sharing agreement in the Strip.
On Tuesday, Abbas held a rare meeting in Ramallah with a delegation from Hamas over possible reconciliation between the rival factions.
The Hamas delegation was headed by former Palestinian education minister Nasser al-Din al-Shaer, and included Hamas lawmakers — Mahmoud Al-Ramahi, Mohammad Totah, Ayman Daraghmeh and Samir Abu Eisha.
According to a report of the meeting in the official PA news outlet Wafa, the sides “reviewed the general situation, ways of strengthening unity, and ending division.”
Despite the ongoing talks, on Saturday Abbas pledged to keep cutting support payments to the Strip, despite extreme blackouts and warnings of a looming humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
Abbas told the gathering that the PA would “continue the cuts in Gaza, gradually, unless Hamas accepts the requirements of the reconciliation.”