Hamas leader ready to reconcile with Fatah

Ismail Haniyeh returns to Gaza, says Hamas is ready for direct talks with rival Fatah.

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Ben Ariel,

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh
Reuters

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday returned to Gaza from Egypt and reiterated the group’s readiness for reconciliation with rival Fatah.

On Sunday, Hamas announced it was willing to hold talks with Fatah, which is headed by Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas, as well as to dismantle the Gaza administrative committee, which served as a local independent governing authority.

"The administrative committee in the Gaza Strip is no longer functioning," Haniyeh told a news conference at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, according to AFP.

"We are ready now to receive the national consensus government to enter the Gaza Strip," he added.

Haniyeh said that Hamas was ready to return to Egypt for direct talks with Fatah over the next steps.

"We are ready to return in a few days to Cairo to resume the dialogue," he noted, stressing he was "committed to the success" of reconciliation.

Abbas’s spokesman welcomed Hamas's decision to restart reconciliation efforts earlier this week, calling it "a step in the right direction" and a "genuine historic opportunity" to end the rift between the sides.

On Monday, Haniyeh and Abbas spoke for the first time in nearly a year, and Fatah officials have said they expect the head of the PA government Rami Hamdallah to visit Gaza in the coming days.

If the sides do reconcile, it would bring to an end a feud that has been ongoing since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup. All attempts to reconcile the sides have thus far failed.

A unity government between the sides collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

The tensions have escalated recently after Hamas established the administrative board tasked with running the day-to-day affairs in Gaza.

Abbas responded to the establishment of the administrative board by creating economic pressure on Hamas in an attempt to force it to cede control of Gaza.