Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reach agreement in Cairo

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Hani

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Hani

The two sides, meeting in Cairo for talks brokered by Egypt, said in a joint statement Thursday that the West Bank-based authority would by early December regain full administration of Gaza, which has been under Hamas control since 2007.

"All the measures taken recently will end very shortly", Zakaria al-Agha, a senior Fatah leader in the Gaza Strip, told AFP.

Hamas's agreement to transfer administrative powers in Gaza to a Fatah-backed government marked a major reversal, prompted partly by its fears of financial and political isolation after its main patron and donor, Qatar, plunged in June into a major diplomatic dispute with key allies like Saudi Arabia.

Fatah, the more moderate of the two groups, previously controlled Gaza but was ousted by Hamas a decade ago, leaving Palestine split in two.

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Gaza, which sits on the Mediterranean coast and is fenced in by heavily-patrolled barriers on three sides bordering Israel and Egypt, has been a frequent battleground over the past decade, during which Hamas has fought three wars with Israel. "Unity and national reconciliation among the Palestinian people are our strategic option for moving forward".

Fatah negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed and Hamas' representative Saleh al-Arouri smiled and shook hands in a short ceremony presided over by Egypt's chief of intelligence, Khalid Fawzi.

Faced with increasing isolation and a severe electricity shortage, Hamas has reached out to Cairo for help, hoping to have the Rafah border with Egypt opened.

Since then, the relations between the two rival factions have been very tense and all attempts to reconcile them over the past years have failed to bring fruit.

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Struggling with the fallout from the border blockade, Hamas has found it increasingly hard to govern or provide basic services, such as electricity, to Gaza's people.

Hamas has remained staunchly opposed to even discussing demilitarization, and in the past has called their military wing the "arms of the resistance" and argued "the resistance's weapons are legal".

Reconciliation could also pose a dilemma for global efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal since Hamas has not recognised Israel, unlike the Abbas-led Palestine Liberation Organisation.

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