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Palestinian PM in Gaza in run-up to political handover

PALESTINIAN PM IN GAZA IN RUN-UP TO POLITICAL HANDOVER

The Palestinian unity government is set to assume political and administrative responsibility for the blockaded Gaza Strip, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced Monday after arriving to the strip for a highly-anticipated visit.

Greeted by a visibly excited crowd upon his arrival at the northern Erez crossing with Israel, Hamdallah described the current situation in Gaza as "intolerable", referring to an acute power crisis that has compounded a decade-long Israeli/Egyptian blockade.

"The [unity] government's success will depend on its ability to make an impact on the ground and in the field and its ability to have a positive impact on the lives of citizens," he said.

Hamdallah also praised Hamas, Gaza's de facto ruler for the last decade, for agreeing to the unity government's assumption of control over the enclave.

He also said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads up the Ramallah-based Palestinian government, sought to establish political unity between the occupied West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Hamdallah is scheduled to meet with Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh later Monday and conduct a tour of the coastal territory. On Tuesday, he plans to hold his official cabinet meeting in Gaza City.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian faction Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept 2006 legislative polls that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel and the international community.

Previous agreements for a unity government signed between Hamas and Fatah, Palestine's two leading political factions, failed to yield any concrete breakthroughs.

Recent weeks, however, have seen mounting hope that an ongoing Egypt-sponsored reconciliation process will be more successful.

Hamdallah is heading up a 100-strong delegation of ministers and officials in preparation for officially assuming political and administrative control of the strip.

Gaza has suffered acute shortages of electricity and medical supplies this year as a result of punitive measures imposed by Abbas in an effort to ratchet up pressure on Hamas.

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