The West Bank-based Palestinian prime minister crossed into the Gaza Strip on Monday in a move towards reconciliation between the mainstream Fatah party and Hamas, a decade after the Islamist group seized the territory in a civil war.
Rami al-Hamdallah said at a welcome ceremony his unity government would begin assuming control of Gaza’s administrative affairs, as well as “security responsibilities and responsibility for crossings and borders.”
Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and the West, made its dramatic step towards unity last month, disbanding its Gaza shadow government, after Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed an economic boycott on its main donor, Qatar, over alleged support of terrorism. Qatar denies the allegation.
Under previous understandings, some 3,000 Fatah security men would be integrated gradually into a Gaza police force overseen by an Interior Ministry headed by Hamdallah.
That deployment would still leave Hamas’s armed wing — analysts say it has at least 25,000 well-equipped fighters — the dominant power in the Palestinian enclave of 2 million people.
“We return to Gaza in order to conclude reconciliation and national unity and end the painful impacts of divisions and to rebuild Gaza brick by brick,” said Hamdallah, who is an independent.