The announcement of an Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas on Thursday raised hopes that a decade of bitter feuding between the rival Palestinian factions may finally come to an end.
The early conclusion of the talks in Cairo hinted at how much pressure both sides were under to make progress.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hailed what he called a “declaration of the end to division”. He is expected to visit Gaza within the next month, for the first time since Hamas ousted Fatah from the enclave in 2007.
However, the two sides reached only a partial agreement, addressing civil and administrative matters. Far more contentious issues – such as national elections, reform of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the status of Hamas’ armed wing – were set aside for consideration at the next meeting in late November.
Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian Authority (PA) minister, said that after previous failed reconciliation efforts, the chances of success had been improved because both factions had accepted “a step-by-step approach”.
Rafah crossing to open
Most importantly, agreement was reached on allowing security forces under Abbas’ control to oversee the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Egypt has promised to end its closure of the crossing, allowing goods and people to pass through and alleviating the enclave’s humanitarian crisis.
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