Rival factions Fatah and Hamas have reached a reconciliation deal to form a unity government. Under the deal, the Palestinian Authority will take over governing in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal to form a unity government on Thursday, a decade after bitter rivalry split the Palestinian movement.
Hamas representative Saleh al-Arouri and Fatah's negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed signed the agreement after two days of Egypt-mediated talks in Cairo.
The agreement, if implemented, would see the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) controlled by Fatah take over governing in the Gaza Strip by December 1.
Negotiations are now expected to center of forming a unity government. Other Palestinian factions were invited to another meeting in Cairo slated for November 21.
Read more: What are Fatah and Hamas?
A landslide victory for Hamas in 2006 elections sparked clashes between the two groups, leading to the dissolution of a tenuous coalition government and Hamas governing the Gaza Strip and Fatah the West Bank.
One person associated with the negotiations told news agency AFP that the agreement would see the PA take control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, likely under the supervision of the European Union border agency, EUBAM.
Israel and Egypt have blockaded the Gaza Strip, isolating Hamas and inflicting suffering on the enclave's 1.8 million inhabitants.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has also implemented sanctions on Gaza, including reducing electricity payments, which has left residents with limited power.
A Fatah official told AFP that as part of the deal punitive sanctions on Gaza would be lifted.
The Islamist Hamas party has an armed wing and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, the European Union and Israel. It remained unclear what would happen to Hamas' armed wing and whether its members would relinquish military control over Gaza.
Previous attempts at reconciliation between the rival Palestinian factions failed to materialize.
In September, Hamas agreed to cede certain powers in Gaza to the PA, but differences remained over the role of the militant group's 25,000-strong military wing.
The deal reportedly provides for 3,000 members of the PA police force to return to Gaza.
Last week, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza for the first time since 2015 and his ministers took control of government departments. According to PA officials, Abbas was also planning to soon visit Gaza Strip for the first time in over a decade.
The split Palestinian movement has been one impediment to peace talks with Israel. But an agreement between Fatah and Hamas could pose new challenges.
Unlike Fatah, Hamas does not recognize the Oslo Accords and rejects recognizing Israel.
In a new charter announced earlier this year, Hamas dropped its wording of "destroying" Israel and said it would recognize a Palestinian state within the borders created by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The charter says Hamas would continue armed resistance as a legitimate right and would not recognize the Oslo Accords.
Israel reiterates calls for Hamas to disarm
Israel on Thursday again called on Hamas to disarm and recognize the state of Israel as part of the new agreement.
"Any reconciliation between the [Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority] and Hamas must include a commitment to international agreements and to the conditions of the Quartet, first of which is recognizing Israel and demilitarizing Hamas," an Israeli official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The Quartet refers the diplomatic Middle East peace mission made up of the United Nations, United States, European Union and Russia.
"Israel will study the developments on the ground and will act accordingly. As long as Hamas remains armed and as long as it calls for the destruction of Israel, Israel will consider Hamas responsible for any terror attack originating from Gaza," the official said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier this month that his government would only accept a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah if the former agreed to recognize Israel, give up its armed force and cut ties with Iran.
UN Security Council Resolution 242, 1967
United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, passed on November 22, 1967, called for the exchange of land for peace. Since then, many of the attempts to establish peace in the region have referred to 242. The resolution was written in accordance with Chapter VI of the UN Charter, under which resolutions are recommendations, not orders.
Camp David Accords, 1978
A coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria, fought Israel in the Yom Kippur or October War in October 1973. The conflict eventually led to the secret peace talks that yielded two agreements after 12 days. This picture from March 26, 1979, shows Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, his US counterpart Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin after signing the accords in Washington.
The Madrid Conference, 1991
The US and the former Soviet Union came together to organize a conference in the Spanish capital city of Madrid. The discussions involved Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestinians — not from the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) — who met with Israeli negotiators for the first time. While the conference achieved little, it did create the framework for later, more productive talks.
Oslo I Accord, 1993
The negotiations in Norway between Israel and the PLO, the first direct meeting between the two parties, resulted in the the Oslo I Accord. The agreement was signed in the US in September 1993. It demanded that Israeli troops withdraw from West Bank and Gaza and a self-governing, interim Palestinian authority be set up for a five-year transitional period. A second accord was signed in 1995.
Camp David Summit Meeting, 2000
US President Bill Clinton invited Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to the retreat in July 2000 to discuss borders, security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Despite the negotiations being more detailed than ever before, no agreement was concluded. The failure to reach a consensus at Camp David was followed by renewed Palestinian uprising, the Second Intifada.
The Arab Peace Initiative, 2002
The Camp David negotiations were followed first by meetings in Washington and then in Cairo and Taba, Egypt — all without results. Later the Arab League proposed the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut in March 2002. The plan called on Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 borders so that a Palestinian state could be set up in the West Bank and Gaza. In return, Arab countries would agree to recognize Israel.
The Roadmap, 2003
The US, EU, Russia and the UN worked together as the Middle East Quartet to develop a road map to peace. While Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas accepted the text, his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon had more reservations with the wording. The timetable called for a final agreement on a two-state solution to be reached in 2005. Unfortunately, it was never implemented.
In 2007 US President George W. Bush hosted a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, to relaunch the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took part in talks with officials from the Quartet and over a dozen Arab states. It was agreed that further negotiations would be held with the goal of reaching a peace deal by the end of 2008.
In 2010, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell convinced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to and implement a ten-month moratorium on settlements in disputed territories. Later, Netanyahu and Abbas agreed to relaunch direct negotiations to resolve all issues. Negotiations began in Washington in September 2010, but within weeks there was a deadlock.
Cycle of escalation and ceasefire continues
A new round of violence broke out in and around Gaza late 2012. A ceasefire was reached between Israel and those in power in the Gaza Strip, which held until June 2014. The kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June 2014 resulted in renewed violence and eventually led to the Israeli military operation Protective Edge. It ended with a ceasefire on August 26, 2014.
Paris Summit, 2017
Envoys from over 70 countries gathered in Paris, France, to discuss the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Netanyahu slammed the discussions as "rigged" against his country. Neither Israeli nor Palestinian representatives attended the summit. "A two-state solution is the only possible one," French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said at the opening of the event.
Deteriorating relations in 2017
Despite the year's optimistic opening, 2017 brought further stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. A deadly summer attack on Israeli police at the Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, sparked deadly clashes. Then US President Donald Trump's plan to move the embassy to Jerusalem prompted Palestinian leader Abbas to say "the measures ... undermine all peace efforts."
dm/cw/sms (dpa, Reuters)