From left in front row, Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar, Head of Palestinian General Intelligence Majid Faraj, Head of the Hamas political bureau Ismail Haniyeh, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and an Egyptian mediator hold their han
Rival groups Hamas and Fatah have reached a preliminary, partial agreement that could pave the way for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resume governing the Gaza Strip, a decade after Hamas overran the territory, officials close to Egyptian-brokered negotiations said on Thursday.
Details of the deal were to be presented at a news conference in Cairo later Thursday. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the agreement was reached under "generous Egyptian auspices," but provided no details.
A senior Palestinian official said Abbas, the leader of Fatah, might visit Gaza in the coming weeks, depending on a successful implementation of the agreement. The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending a formal announcement in Cairo.
The Western-backed Abbas hasn't set foot in Gaza since 2007, when the Islamic militant Hamas, his main ideological rival, seized the territory in street battles with his loyalists.
The Hamas takeover, which came a year after the group defeated Fatah in Palestinian parliament elections, left Abbas with autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Hamas, meanwhile, became increasingly isolated, as Israel and Egypt enforced a Gaza border blockade of the coastal strip.
Over the past decade, each side deepened control over its territory, making it increasingly difficult to forge compromises and repeated attempts at reconciliation failed. The preliminary deal being announced on Thursday came after two days of talks between Hamas and Fatah in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
Under the emerging agreement, Hamas would hand over responsibilities of governing Gaza to the West Bank-based government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
Officials close to the talks said the sides agreed to set up committees to work out the details in the past a mechanism that quickly led to deadlock.
One committee would have four months to determine who among thousands of Hamas civil servants would be able to join the new government. Another committee would merge 3,000 Palestinian Authority loyalists into Gaza's Hamas-run police force.
-AP, Gaza City
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