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Egypt sending team to help realise Palestinian deal

The Egyptian army is to lend a helping hand in the implementation of a reconciliation agreement reached by Fatah and Hamas, sending an Egyptian security team to Gaza soon

Reuters , Thursday 28 Apr 2011
Mahmoud Abbas, Ismail Haniyeh
In this Saturday, March 17, 2007 file photo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from Hamas, right (Photo: AP)
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An Arab committee is to be formed to implement a prospective Palestinian reconciliation agreement, a Palestinian source told Ahram Online, adding that "Egypt will head this committee."

Egypt will also send a security team to the Gaza Strip to help implement a reconciliation agreement reached by rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas, an Egyptian security source told Reuters Thursday.

Restructuring and unifying security forces in Hamas-run Gaza is a key condition for the success of the accord, brokered by Egypt on Wednesday to overcome a rift that had stifled the Palestinian drive for self-determination and freedom from Israeli occupation.

"An Egyptian security delegation will head to Gaza to help settle and organise the internal security situation there, now that the reconciliation agreement is finally in place," said the security source, who declined to be identified.

He said the security team would seek to meld together the disparate security forces belonging to Palestinian factions in Gaza, but declined to explain how.

The deal provides for the creation of a non-factional professional security force that would be subject to scrutiny by the Palestinian legislature.

Another security source said the team would consist of specialists from various branches of the Egyptian army. Like in a previous mission that ended in 2007, Egypt's intelligence service will oversee the team's work in Gaza.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since it routed Fatah-led security forces in 2007, a year after it won a Palestinian general election.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas controls the much larger Israeli occupied West Bank.

The reconciliation pact calls for setting up an interim unity government to replace factional administrations that currently run the West Bank and Gaza separately, and to prepare for presidential and legislative elections within a year.

Abbas, who heads the secular Fatah movement, and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, who is based in Damascus, will sign the deal in Cairo next week, the Palesinian source told Ahram Online. He also stressed that the current Fatah prime minister, Salam Fayyad, "will not be nominated again as a prime minister".

According to the reconciliation agreement, all detainees from both factions will be released, "as soon as the agreement is signed," according to Hamas spokesperson Taher Al-Nono. 

Abbas, Meshal to sign accord

A new ballot is long overdue. Israel is worried a vote could hand Hamas control of the occupied West Bank.

Forging Palestinian unity is regarded as crucial to reviving any prospect for an independent Palestinian state. Western powers demand that any unity government honour peace deals with Israel, renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Egypt had been trying to broker a reconciliation deal for years. But analysts say the popular uprising that swept former president Hosni Mubarak, Abbas main ally, from power in February, and protests rocking Syria, Hamas's main patron, now has helped bring the two sides together.

An Egyptian security mission, led by Major-General Burhan Hammad, quit the Gaza Strip after Hamas seized control of the Strip following fierce clashes with Fatah in 2007. Omar Suleiman, then intelligence chief, oversaw the mission.

Egypt drafted a reconciliation agreement in 2009 calling for setting up a professional police force from the Hamas-led police currently in control of the Gaza Strip along with forces loyal to Abbas's Fatah faction who ruled the Strip before 2007. Hamas refused to sign that accord, demanding ammendments be made to the text before endorsing it.

Abbas met with the head of Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, earlier this month to discuss reconciliation efforts. "This was a very important meeting, and it laid out Egypt's role in the coming period as the agreement is carried out," the first security source said.

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