Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas are reportedly agreed to end their schism and form a joint unity government.
Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, and head of the Fatah movement which governs the West Bank, entered into the deal with Islamist Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, through mediation efforts by Egypt.
We have agreed to form a government composed of independent figures that would start preparing for presidential and parliamentary elections, said Azzam al-Ahmad, the head of Fatah's negotiating team in Cairo. Elections would be held in about eight months from now.”
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a prominent Hamas leader who participated in the talks, said the pact comprised five points, including elections, the formation of an interim unity government and the combination security forces.
We also discussed activating the Palestinian Legislative Council, the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] as well as forming a government consisting of nationalist figures to be agreed upon, Zahar told Al Jazeera. Zahar also said Hamas and Fatah will release prisoners held by each side.
The intentions were more serious this time and have been coupled by the efforts of our Egyptian brothers, said Taher al-Nono, a spokesman for the Hamas government in Gaza, according to reports.
Implementation will start following the official [signing] ceremony which could be within a week.”
Reportedly, the two sides, who fought a brief civil war in 2007 when Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza, had engaged in secret talks for several days or weeks.
Abbas’ position and power is largely supported by the west, while many consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. However, disunity between the two groups made the idea independent statehood for the Palestinians impossible. For one thing, one of Hamas’ principal aims is the destruction of Israel, something Fatah does not agree with. Also, while Fatah is open to negotiations with Israel, Hamas rejects any such notion and regularly fires missiles and mortars into Israel from Gaza.
Israel has said in the past it will oppose any attempts by Hamas to influence any Palestinian government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country will not conduct could any peace negotiations with any government that Hamas is a part of.
However, Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has long desires peace between Hamas and Fatah, will likely be heavily with the Palestinian reconciliation.
Nabil al-Arabi, Egypt's new foreign minister said he will Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian Authority president Abbas.
Still, some analysts are skeptical about peace between Hamas and Fatah, considering that Hamas had pulled out of another similar agreement in 2009.
Previous experience has taught us not to rush into making a judgment, said Gaza-based analyst Hani Habib, who is based in Gaza, according to Reuters.
We have had experiences in the past where agreements were fully signed, not just by initial letters, where governments were formed and then everything collapsed.”