Hamas asks Abbas to lift Gaza sanctions after disbanding shadow government

Reuters , Tuesday 19 Sep 2017

Ismail Haniyeh
Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh gestures during a news conference following his arrival at the Rafah border crossing in the southern Gaza Strip September 19, 2017 (Photo: Reuters)

Hamas called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday to respond to the disbanding of its shadow government in the Gaza Strip by ending his sanctions on the impoverished enclave.

Following Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks with Abbas's Western-backed Fatah faction, Islamist Hamas said on Sunday it would dissolve its Gaza "administrative committee" to enable the president's administration to retake control.

The announcement promised relief for Gazans who, under a decade of Hamas rule, have endured poverty, three wars with Israel and Cairo's cold shoulder. Yet implementation may hinge on power-sharing negotiations that stymied previous unity bids.

"We have taken practical steps on the ground. The administrative committee no longer functions in Gaza and we are ready, starting now, to welcome the government of national consensus," Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh told reporters.

Speaking after crossing into Gaza from Egypt, Haniyeh said he spoke with Abbas by phone, telling him: "Our people expect you to suspend and cancel the measures and begin a dialogue."

Aiming to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Abbas in June cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to the enclave, leading to power being provided for less than four hours on some days, and never more than six hours a day.

Abbas has also slashed by 30 percent the salaries of some 60,000 Gazans employed by his Palestinian Authority.

Abbas, who is at the U.N. general assembly, on Sunday welcomed the Hamas overture and said he would convene the Palestinian leadership for further discussion on his return.

Blacklisted as a terrorist group by Israel and the West, Hamas won 2006 legislative elections and, after an uneasy alliance with Fatah, seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war the following year. The rival factions agreed in 2014 to form a national unity government but could not agree on the details.

Mending fences with Abbas would be another step in Hamas’ diplomatic push to improve relations with its neighbour Egypt, which accused the group in the past of aiding Islamist militants in Egypt’s Sinai desert, something Hamas denies.

However, in recent months Egypt has eased the border closure.

"I can say that this visit (to Cairo) has laid strategic foundations for the ties between Egypt and Hamas," Haniyeh said.                      

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