Itongadol.- Members of the new Palestinian unity government, led by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, traveled from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip Thursday for their first cabinet session there — a meeting meant to signal the end of Hamas’ absolute control of the territory.
Palestinian unity government meets in Gaza Strip
The meeting came some four months after Fatah and Hamas reached a reconciliation agreement and over a month after Israel and Gaza-based terror groups ended a bloody 50-day war.
Hamdallah described the event as an “historic opportunity.”
“Our message to our people in Gaza is about bringing back hope, uniting institutions and reconstruction. The Palestinian national project is incomplete without Gaza, and the president gave clear instructions last night to the government confirming that we should rebuild Gaza,” he told Palestinian news agency Maan.
“It’s our responsibility to provide work opportunities for Gaza workers, and we will overstep external challenges with good will,” he added.
The gathering took place at the Gaza home of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israel Radio reported.
The visitors were expected for lunch with former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas forces were deployed around the Strip to secure the event, Israel Radio reported.
The West Bank lawmakers crossed into Gaza through the Erez checkpoint earlier Thursday, with the cooperation and authorization of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major-General Yoav Mordechai.
The lawmakers’ visit will include a tour of the Beit Hanoun area and the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City — described as a Hamas stronghold by Israel — where 13 Golani soldiers were killed in an ambush in late July, prompting an IDF response that led to more than 60 Palestinians dead, many of them combatants.
The historic meet comes three days ahead of an international donor conference where Abbas seeks $4 billion for Gaza’s reconstruction following the summer Israel-Hamas war.
By meeting in Gaza for the first time, the Cabinet, which reports to the Western-backed Abbas, hopes to reassure donors it can lead reconstruction efforts.
It’s not clear, though, how much authority it will have on the ground. Hamas, which seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007 after a violent battle, says it will step aside, but refuses to disband its security forces.