World Bulletin / News Desk
Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Thursday that his government would soon issue decisions aimed at paving the way for reconciliation with West Bank-based political rival Fatah.
"We're more willing to reconcile and end chronic divisions as we enter 2014," Haniyeh said at a graduation ceremony for military cadets.
He referred to the many "challenges" that continued to dog the Palestinian national project.
Haniyeh voiced hope that the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) would react positively to his gesture, which, he said, had been made against the backdrop of "major threats" to the Palestinian cause.
The prime minister did not, however, elaborate on the nature of the decisions his government planned to take to end Palestinian political division.
The gap between Hamas and Fatah widened dramatically after the former, an ideological offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, won a majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 polls.
Continued conflict between Hamas and Fatah, the latter of which holds the Palestinian presidency, obliged Hamas to form its own government in Gaza, while Fatah did the same in the West Bank.
Despite their vast differences, particularly over peace talks with Israel, both governments nevertheless maintain considerable coordination, particularly in the education and health sectors.
In 2011, Hamas and Fatah hammered out a reconciliation deal under Egyptian sponsorship. The following year, the two sides agreed to form a unity government headed up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to prepare for parliamentary polls.
The agreement, however, was never implemented.
Improved Arab relations
Haniyeh also asserted that his government was ready for better relations with Arab countries.
"Relations with our Arab brothers are strong," Haniyeh said. "However, recent transformations in some Arab countries have served to destabilize these relations."
The Palestinians of Gaza, he said, could not do without Arab support, describing Egypt as a "main sponsor" of the Palestinian people and cause.
Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated markedly since the Egyptian army ousted elected president Mohamed Morsi – who hails from the Brotherhood – last July.
Egypt has also launched an all-out campaign against the network of smuggling tunnels linking it to the Gaza Strip, which since 2007 has groaned under a crippling Israeli blockade.
Hamas views the smuggling tunnels as an indispensible lifeline through which it had received all types of smuggled goods from Egypt, from cars and fuel to badly-needed construction materials.
The chill that now haunts relations between Cairo and Gaza bucked Egypt's traditional role as mediator between Hamas and Fatah.
Egypt had last brought representatives of the two sides together in 2011, following the ouster of long-serving president Hosni Mubarak.
No Israeli onslaught
Haniyeh ruled out the possibility that Israel would engage in renewed aggression against the Gaza Strip in the immediate future.
The Palestinian resistance, he said, had created its own deterrent force, which, he asserted, would stop the self-proclaimed Jewish state from launching any future attacks against the enclave.
"It's no longer easy for Israeli occupation forces to make war on Gaza," Haniyeh said. "The facts on the ground are different now."
In 2008/2009, Israel launched a three-week offensive against the Gaza Strip, during which it killed some 1,500 Palestinians – mostly civilians – and injured thousands of others.
It launched another campaign against the strip in late 2012, killing 190 Palestinians – again mostly civilians – and injuring 5,000 over eight days of relentless bombardments.