Vastavam web: Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah arrived in Gaza today for his first visit in two years, saying the Palestinian Authority would assume control of the strip after a decade of factional strife.Hamdallah crossed the border with dozens of ministers and officials from the West Bank-based PA into the Hamas-run coastal enclave at around noon.”The government began to exercise its roles in Gaza from today,” Hamdallah said at a press conference at the crossing.Hamdallah’s entry was delayed by around half an hour because of disputes between PA and Hamas security men, a security source said.
Hamas politicians and members of the premier’s Fatah faction greeted Hamdallah on arrival.He is expected to meet Hamas’s overall leader Ismail Haniya and its Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar later today, and chair a cabinet meeting tomorrow.Hamas, blacklisted as a “terrorist” group by the European Union and the United States, won a landslide victory in 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.
It ousted Fatah from Gaza the following year after wrangling over the formation of a new government degenerated into bloody clashes.Abbas’s limited power has since been confined to the West Bank which is under Israeli military occupation and located, at its nearest point, 40 kilometres from the Israel-Gaza border.The group was squeezed by Abbas, who stopped paying Israel for electricity it supplies to Gaza, resulting in devastating power cuts.
And long-time Hamas ally Qatar’s diplomatic isolation led to a fall in backing for the group.For Gaza’s two million residents, the hope is to see an improvement in their miserable living conditions in the overcrowded and impoverished territory.Battered by three wars with Israel since 2008, Gaza is under Israeli and Egyptian blockade and suffers from severe water and electricity shortages, an economic slump and unemployment of more than 40 per cent.Experts say that the prospect of social unrest among disgruntled Gazans was a factor in Hamas’s willingness to reconcile with Fatah, along with its growing isolation and perhaps a new pragmatism in its leadership.
Hamas and Fatah, which dominates the PA, have both expressed confidence that the latest unity initiative will fare better than the failures of the past.Particularly thorny issues include the potential future of Hamas’s military wing.The Hamdallah delegation’s visit is seen as largely symbolic and preparing the ground for further talks, probably in Cairo.The outcome will determine the Palestinians’ acceptance on the international stage.