For the first time in more than two years, the Palestinian Authority will hold a cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip next Tuesday, official PA media reported on Monday morning.
“[PA] Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in consultation with President Mahmoud Abbas, issued a decision to hold the government’s weekly cabinet meeting in the Gaza Strip,” PA government spokesman Yousif Mahmoud said in a statement.
The decision came just over a week after Hamas announced the dissolution of its governing body in the Gaza Strip, also known as the administrative committee, and invited the PA to take its place. Hamas has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA in 2007 from the territory.
Hamdallah and other members of the government are scheduled to arrive in Gaza on Monday “to begin assuming responsibility” for the territory, according to Mahmoud.
However, it is not clear if Hamas will fully relinquish control there. In previous reconciliation attempts, Hamas agreed to cede control over civil affairs in the Gaza Strip but refused to do so for security affairs.
Hamdallah last visited Gaza in March 2015 to discuss rehabilitating the area’s infrastructure with Hamas and other factions in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.
The PA prime minister tweeted on Monday that he will be accompanied to Gaza by “all government bodies and authorities and the [PA] security forces.”
Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou welcomed the PA’s pending arrival but called on Abbas to rescind punitive measures.
“We welcome the arrival of the government to the Gaza Strip. We wish it success and excellence in performing its responsibilities and undertaking its duties,” Qanou told al-Rai, a Hamas-affiliated news agency. “[We also hope] the punitive measures against Gaza will be undone simultaneously with the government’s visit.”
Over the past five months, Abbas has ordered a series of cuts to the budgets allocated to Gaza for electricity, medical services, government employees’ salaries and other purposes in order to pressure Hamas to dissolve its administrative committee and permit the PA to operate there in its place.
Hamas had hoped Abbas would immediately cancel the measures after it announced the dissolution of the administrative committee and its invitation for the PA to take its place. However, Fatah officials said over the past week that the measures would be rescinded only after the PA fully assumes responsibility there.