Unity Deal Offers Hope for Palestinians and a Respite for Gaza

 In World

It was a sobering reality check for a group that, despite years of fiery defiance and arms supplies from Iran, cannot rule Gaza without help from Fatah, the rival faction that controls the Palestinian Authority and was driven out of Gaza in violent clashes 10 years ago.

And for Mahmoud Abbas, the 82-year-old president of the Palestinian Authority, it could amount to a legacy-saving moment in the twilight years of his rule, after years of abject failure to negotiate a peace settlement with Israel. Although he was not in Cairo, Mr. Abbas gave his blessing to the deal, which he hailed as a “final agreement,” according to Agence France-Presse.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Israel “objects to any reconciliation that does not include” accepting international agreements, recognizing Israel and disarming Hamas. A Fatah-Hamas rapprochement would make “peace much harder to achieve,” Mr. Netanyahu said in a post on Facebook. “Reconciling with mass-murderers is part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

At a brief ceremony on Thursday at the headquarters of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, which shepherded the negotiations, representatives from Hamas and Fatah kissed and embraced amid a smattering of applause from Egyptian and Palestinian officials gathered around them.

The Palestinians did not release the text of the agreement, and there was no mention of the thorny issues that remain unresolved, such as the fate of the main Hamas militia, or the network of tunnels under Gaza used by fighters and weapons smugglers.

But officials from both sides described a series of agreed measures that are due to unfold in the coming weeks, and which they say will both sideline Hamas from the day-to-day running of Gaza and create a political groundswell for a broader deal to reunite the Palestinian territories.

Egypt’s State Information Service said that the rivals had agreed to hand full control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority by Dec. 1. Palestinian officials said that if the process goes well, Mr. Abbas could visit Gaza in the coming month, his first visit to the embattled coastal strip in a decade.

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