Reconciliation Committee to Start Work

The committee tasked with implementing the reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah has finalized all administrative preparations and will begin work immediately, committee head Rabah Mhannah said Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters after a committee meeting in Gaza City, Mhannah said members were allocated aspects of the agreement to work on.

The cross-party committee is tasked with hammering out a number of tenets of the unity deal signed in May, including the release of political prisoners, the reopening of closed institutions, travel bans and freedom of political expression.

PLO official and committee member Yasser al-Wadiyeh told Ma’an the committee’s structure had been agreed on Wednesday. Members discussed latest developments, including a spat over a Fatah delegation’s failed visit to the Gaza Strip, he said.

Four Fatah officials say they were denied entry to the Gaza Strip on Friday by Hamas border guards. Hamas rejects the claim and says the Fatah delegation refused to wait longer than 10 minutes and insulted security officers at Erez crossing.

The incident prompted furious sparring between party officials, with both sides accusing the other of trying to thwart the unity deal.

Hamas accused Fatah delegate Sakher Bseso of "cursing God" at the border and threatened to charge him with blasphemy. Bseso denied the allegation.

Fatah demanded an apology from Hamas, while Hamas countered that Bseso must apologize "to the whole Islamic nation."

Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday that his party would reconsider its reconciliation with Hamas in light of the incident.

Committee chief Mhannah said Hamas and Fatah agreed to draw a line under the incident on Tuesday, and pledged that the committee would face any obstacles that might hinder its work.

The committee will meet again on Monday, he added.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been ruled under rival administrations since 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza after winning elections a year earlier. The reconciliation agreement signed in May has yet to produce a unity government

The division has weakened efforts to end Israel’s occupation and establish an independent state.

Fatah, which dominates the Palestine Liberation Organization, pursues negotiations with Israel, while Hamas refuses to do so.

Hamas has accused Fatah of reneging on the unity agreement by holding talks with Israeli envoys in Amman in January.

"If Fatah has made a decision to backtrack from reconciliation in favor of returning to negotiation with the Zionist enemy, they should bear full responsibility for the consequences of such a decision before the Palestinian people, and the Egyptian mediator," Hamas said in a statement.

The PLO insists the Amman talks are not negotiations but preliminary discussions to try and revive the peace process.

(Ma’an News)

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