Ramallah govt to take charge of Gaza by December 1


Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have agreed to allow the Ramallah-based unity government to assume political and administrative control of the Gaza Strip by Dec.1, a Palestinian source close to ongoing talks -- which kicked off last week in Cairo -- told Anadolu Agency.

The source, who preferred anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the two factions had also agreed to allow the unity government to assume responsibility for all of Gaza's border crossings no later than Nov. 1.

The source also said that security officials from Ramallah were expected to hold a series of preparatory meetings in Gaza with their Hamas counterparts to discuss means of handing over security responsibility for the blockaded coastal enclave.

The two factions also agreed to allow a legal and administrative committee, drawn up earlier by the Ramallah government, to find solutions to longstanding problems -- mostly related to salary shortfalls -- faced by Gaza's Hamas-hired civil servants.

"According to understandings [reached in Cairo], this committee will wrap up its work sometime before Feb. 1," the source said.

During this period, the source added, the Ramallah government will pay all outstanding salaries owed to Gaza's public servants.

"Hamas and Fatah will hold a fresh round of talks in Cairo on Dec. 1 to assess implementation of the agreement," the source said.

Two weeks before this, another meeting will be held in Cairo (on Nov. 14) between representatives of all Palestinian factions, the same source said, adding that this meeting would discuss "mechanisms" for implementing the reconciliation agreement.

Earlier Thursday, Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh confirmed that the two factions had hammered out a reconciliation agreement following a week of intense discussions in Cairo.

Cairo is currently leading efforts to heal a decade-long political split between Gaza-based Hamas and the West Bank-based Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

In a major step towards reconciliation last week, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (who heads up the Ramallah government) held his first cabinet meeting in Gaza since the unity government was drawn up in 2014.

The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have remained politically and administratively divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of the strip from Fatah following several days of street fighting.

Hamas's capture of Gaza in 2007 ended an earlier -- if short-lived -- unity government established after Hamas swept 2006 Palestinian legislative polls.

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