|Following years of bitter rivalry, Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal in April [EPA]|
Hamas has pledged to return the Gaza residence of Mahmoud Abbas, which its fighters seized in 2007, to the Fatah leader, following reconciliation talks between the two main Palestinian factions on Saturday.
“We tell our brothers in Fatah that they can take the home of president Abu Mazen,” Hamas official Khalil al-Haya said at a joint news conference with Fatah’s Zakariya al-Agha, using the name by which Abbas is locally known.
But Diab al-Louh, a Fatah official in Gaza, told official Palestinian news agency WAFA that Hamas insisted on maintaining its own guard on the premises.
“Hamas in Gaza informed the Fatah leadership after a meeting in Gaza that they can receive president Mahmoud Abbas’s house, while keeping security personnel deployed by Hamas outside the house under the pretext of protecting the house as it is personal property,” he said.
At the meeting, hosted in his home by Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, the two sides also agreed to reopen local offices of the Palestinian Electoral Commission as a prelude to new elections.
Last month, Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, met Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas chief, in Cairo.
The two men decided on a process to pave the way for Hamas to join a reformed Palestine Liberation Organisation and for long-delayed Palestinian elections.
“It was agreed to reopen the headquarters of the Central Election Commission in the Gaza Strip,” a source close to Saturday’s meeting in Gaza told the AFP news agency without giving a date.
Since 2007, when Hamas forcibly seized power in Gaza, routing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas, the Palestinian territories have been politically divided into two, with Fatah largely ruling the West Bank and Hamas governing Gaza.
In April, following years of bitter rivalry, the two factions signed a reconciliation deal whose implementation has since stalled.
Last week, a bipartisan “committee of general freedom” agreed on an imminent exchange of political prisoners held by each side.