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Abbas meets with Hamas delegation to discuss national reconciliation

Aug. 2, 2017 5:01 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 3, 2017 10:09 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with a Hamas delegation from the occupied West Bank at Abbas’ presidential palace in Ramallah in the central West Bank on Tuesday evening.

Abbas, who leads the Fatah-majority Palestinian Authority (PA), and the delegation, headed by Nasser al-Din al-Shaer, discussed efforts to achieving national unity between Hamas and Fatah, who have failed to commit to reconciliation efforts since the movements came into violent conflict in 2007, shortly after Hamas’ 2006 victory in general elections held in the Gaza Strip.

Renewed calls for national reconciliation sprang up last month in the wake of a massive civil disobedience campaign among Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem in protest of Israeli measures at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

PA-owned Wafa news agency reported that in the meeting, Abbas told the delegation that "if Hamas dissolves the administrative committee it had established to run the Gaza Strip and enables the government of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to work freely in Gaza, then all measures recently applied to the Gaza Strip will be retracted."

The PA has been the focus of fierce condemnation in recent months, after being accused of deliberately sending the impoverished Gaza Strip further into a humanitarian catastrophe in order to wrestle control of the territory from Hamas.

The Ramallah-based PA has notably decided to slash funding for Israeli fuel to the coastal enclave, as Israeli authorities acceded to PA demands to dramatically reduce its electricity supply to Gaza, which was already reeling from lack of access to electricity and fuel.

Other policies implemented by the PA in recent weeks, including allegedly halting medical referrals to patients in Gaza to receive medical treatment outside of the territory and cutting its funding to the medical sector in the besieged enclave, which has seen the typical $4 million monthly budget of Gaza’s health ministry plummet to just $500,000, have also greatly exacerbated the dire situation of residents in Gaza.

Hamas’ growing alliance with Abbas' longtime political rival and discharged Fatah leader Muhammad Dahlan -- with whom Hamas has confirmed an alliance to challenge the PA -- resulted last month in the PA deciding to block 11 Palestinian news websites -- all allegedly affiliated with either the Hamas movement or Dahlan,which has been condemned by rights groups as a "serious violation of freedom of the press and expression."

Hamas authorities have also been accused of withholding funds collected in Gaza from the PA, as well as targeting Fatah officials in Gaza through detentions and restricting their freedom of movement, recently preventing a Fatah Central Committee member from leaving the besieged territory.

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