CAIRO, EGYPT. - The Palestinian Hamas faction and its rival Fatah signed an agreement in Cairo Thursday, sealing a political reconciliation deal which has eluded the parties during multiple rounds of talks since a 2007 split.
Fatah's lead negotiator, Azzam Ahmed, told a reporters after the ceremony that the agreement's key element is the resumption of control by a Palestinian "unity" government over Gaza.
He says the parties have agreed that the legitimate Palestinian "unity" government will function normally, taking up its official role, according to the law.
Hamas' lead negotiator, Salah Azzoury, maintained that it was in the interest of both sides to end their dispute.
He says that we are part of the same family and we share the same destiny, so when we put our hands in each other's hands, we are helping ourselves...and our only choice is to continue to move toward unity and achieve the aspirations of our people.
Israel has blockaded Gaza for a decade, and its border with Egypt also has remained largely closed in recent years, leaving Gaza's economy in shambles.
Egyptian media reported that Hamas had agreed to hand over control of the Rafah border crossing to both Palestinian Authority security forces and European Union monitors as per a 2005 agreement with Israel. Some 3,000 police officers will also be deployed alongside Hamas' forces inside Gaza. Egypt and Israel will then step up fuel supplies to Gaza's main power plant to ease an electricity crisis.
Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, tells VOA he thinks the Palestinian reconciliation deal is "part of the global strategy by the Trump administration to reach a peace deal between the Arab states and Israel."
For that to happen, though, he argues that key Arab states, like Saudi Arabia, must find a face-saving solution to the conflict that they can present to their own people.
"The Saudis want peace with Israel; they want to recognize Israel; they want to create an anti-Iranian alliance, and the only way to do it is to end the Israel-Palestine conflict so that they can make good in the eyes of their own people," he said.
Fatah official Zachariya Agha told Arab media that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is "expected to visit Gaza within the coming month," to seal the reconciliation deal. Another round of talks between Fatah and Hamas is expected to take place in Cairo before the end of October to decide on the logistics of holding expected presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
Arab media also reported that Israeli officials met with their Egyptian counterparts during the negotiations to press Hamas to agree to a prisoner swap. It was not immediately clear if any agreement was reached.