Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reach key deal over Gaza

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reach key deal over Gaza

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reach key deal over Gaza

Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have signed a reconciliation deal - the biggest step forward in intra-Palestinian relations in a decade.

The Western-backed mainstream Fatah party lost control of Gaza to Hamas in fighting in 2007.

Last month, Hamas agreed to cede civil power in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority but the fate of its vast military wing remains a significant issue for the two sides.

The Fatah and Hamas delegations arrived in Cairo on Monday and held two days of talks to finalize the reconciliation agreement under the sponsorship of the Egyptian authorities.

The deal would also see both Hamas and Fatah form an interim government before elections.

"What has been announced is the essence of what has been agreed upon and not everything that has been reached", Member of Fatah Central Committee Azzam al-Ahmad said in a press conference in Cairo.

A senior Palestinian official said Abbas, the leader of Fatah, might visit Gaza in the coming weeks, depending on the successful implementation of the agreement.

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Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah delegation, said Abbas' Palestinian Authority would assume control of the crossing points between Gaza and Israel by November 1.

Islamist movement Hamas is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

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.

The crossing has remained largely closed in recent years.

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.

The new deal is understood to cover border crossing arrangements, Hamas' arsenal and the livelihoods of thousands of public servants. Egypt has been brokering the reconciliation talks.

"Israel will examine developments in the field and act accordingly", said a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office.

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