CAIRO (Reuters) – Palestinian factions met in Cairo on Wednesday for two days of talks aimed at mending a rift that could threaten Egyptian-mediated negotiations to turn the Gaza ceasefire into a lasting truce.
The split between the Islamist movement Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction relates to several key issues including control of Gaza. The disagreement could undermine any broader deal with Israel.
The ceasefire struck last month between Israel and the Palestinians to end the Gaza war including stipulations that the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas, should take over civil administration in Gaza from Hamas.
But a dispute over the Palestinian Authority’s non-payment of salaries to Gaza’s public sector workers has brought tensions between the two main Palestinian factions to near-braking point, raising the risk of a return to conflict.
Sakher Bseiso, a Fatah central committee member taking part in the talks, told Reuters Fatah and Hamas would discuss issues including security, elections and governance of the Gaza Strip.
“The Cairo talks will discuss enabling the unity government to undertake its role in Gaza Strip and (conduct) bilateral relations between the two movements,” he said.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas’ political bureau, wrote on his Facebook page about “the Palestinian-Palestinian dialogue”, saying, “The most important thing this dialogue needs is good intentions, mutual trust and national responsibility … and commitment to what has been agreed upon.”
Israel and the Palestinians agreed on Tuesday to resume talks late next month on cementing a Gaza ceasefire, allowing time for Palestinian factions to resolve their divisions.
Egyptian security officials said Wednesday’s meetings were occurring under the supervision of Egyptian intelligence but gave no details, not even the location of the talks.
Egyptian-mediated talks in July and August succeeded in securing a series of ceasefires aimed at laying the groundwork for talks on a broader deal.
Efforts to cement a permanent truce could prove difficult, though, with the sides far apart on their central demands, even if the dialogue among Palestinians yields a unified position.
Azzam al-Ahmed, a Fatah official leading the joint delegation in Cairo, said on Tuesday that as well as control of Gaza, Fatah wants decisions on war and peace to be taken at the national level rather than by individual factions.
Fifty days of conflict between Hamas and Israel some Gaza districts devastated. More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in the fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed. Israel launched the offensive on July 8 with the declared aim of halting cross-border rocket salvoes by Hamas and other militant groups.