Hamas is about to transfer part of its powers in Gaza
Palestinian celebration of the agreement between the rival factions of Fatah and Hamas, last October, after a decade of conflict
The Islamist movement Hamas is set to transfer its powers in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority by Friday, under an agreement that ends ten years of devastating dissension among Palestinians.
According to that agreement, signed in Cairo in mid-October, Hamas must transfer before December 1 the absolute power it has in the Gaza Strip, a densely populated and very poor area, between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
The inhabitants of Gaza took to the streets to celebrate the agreement, although the prudence reminds them of the failure of previous attempts of rapprochement between Palestinian factions.
“All we want is for the economic situation to improve and for the borders to be opened, but I fear that reconciliation will fail again, as before,” says Abu Abed Abu Sultan.
This 53-year-old Palestinian, who was a tailor in a garment company that exported to Israel before the Hebrew state subjected Gaza to a hard blockade, now manages to keep his family selling coffee.
Hamas expelled the Palestinian Authority from Gaza with weapons in 2007. Since then, the Authority only governs – with the restrictions imposed by the Israeli army – on parts of the West Bank, a few dozen kilometers from Gaza.
– Promises –
The transfer of powers would see how an organization like Hamas, rejected by a large part of the international community, takes the back seat for a recognized entity, such as the Palestinian Authority, and that supposedly must prefigure the future Palestinian State.
The two million inhabitants of Gaza, who have suffered three wars against Israel since 2008, poverty and isolation, hope that the new situation will improve living conditions, and bring about the end or easing of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades.
The UN expects a lot from this reconciliation between Palestinians. “We do not have the right to let the process fail, if that happens, the consequence will probably be another devastating conflict,” warned UN special envoy Nickolay Mladenov.
Reconciliation began to materialize when on November 1, Hamas gave the Authority control on the Palestinian side of border crossings with Israel and Egypt.
But a few days before the deadline, “we have barely reached 5% of the transfer of powers,” said Hussein al Sheikh, minister in charge of Civil Affairs of the Palestinian Authority.
Hamas prevents the Authority from exercising total control of the borders, and its employees do their job in the ministries, he says.
The Authority and Hamas remain in total disagreement about the future of the armed wing of the Islamic movement, with its 25,000 men and their rockets. The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abasexige complete control of security, and rejects a situation “to the Lebanese”, in which Hamas, like the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah, of important military power, would exercise a parallel power.
– Divergences –
“The arms of the resistance constitute a red line, it is not something that can be negotiated,” Khalil al-Hayya reiterated on Monday, a senior Hamas official who bases his existence on fighting Israel.
In the longer term, the important question of relations with the international community is raised. Israel and the United States have raised their conditions to deal with an eventual Palestinian unity government: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and disarmament of Hamas.
The Authority and Hamas continue to diverge essentially on the relationship with Israel and on the armed struggle.