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Palestinian Authority Holds First Unity Cabinet Meeting in Gaza

Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) speaks with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at Haniyeh's house in Gaza City, Oct. 9, 2014.

The prime minister of the Palestinian Authority is on a two-day reconciliation visit to Hamas-controlled Gaza to assess the destruction caused by the recent conflict with Israel.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah presided in Gaza over the first cabinet meeting of his unity government since the conflict seven years ago between the Fatah movement that dominates the Authority and the Hamas group that controls Gaza.

Hamdallah and his delegation from the West Bank visited several neighborhoods that were severely damaged by the 50-day conflict in July and August between Israel and Hamas-led militants in Gaza.

He said the huge destruction and human suffering in Gaza reminds Palestinian leaders of their responsibilities and obliges them to end their split and start reconstruction. The first mission, he concluded, is to bring Gaza back to normal and back to unity with the West Bank.

The Hamas spokesman said in a statement that the group welcomed the visit.

Hamdallah heads a unity government of technocrats that was formed as part of a reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. The two-year-old accord is aimed at ending the rift between the two groups that opened after Hamas seized control of Gaza seven years ago.

Under the accord, the Palestinian Authority is to assume control over reconstruction efforts in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced the unity government four months ago after a U.S.-led effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed.

The announcement angered the Israeli government and contributed to rising tensions that erupted in the 50-day conflict in which 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis (including a Thai worker in Israel) were killed.

Palestinian officials say the conflict caused more than $7 billion worth of damage to infrastructure, housing and businesses.

They are seeking $4 billion in aid at a donors’ conference that is scheduled to convene Sunday in Cairo. Ministers from some 30 countries are to attend as well as senior officials from the European Union and United States.

Hamdallah plans to leave Gaza Friday after meetings with local businessmen and more visits to damaged neighborhoods in the enclave.