Palestinian factions to delay Gaza handover

Azzam al-Ahmad of Fatah (R) and Saleh al-Aruri of Hamas sign a deal to end the decade-long feud between the Palestinian factions in Cairo on October 12, 2017

Rival Palestinian factions agreed Wednesday to postpone the handover of control over Gaza from Hamas to Fatah, less than 48 hours before a deadline as part of an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal.

The announcement came at the last minute as the landmark Palestinian unity deal faltered dangerously, with Fatah and Hamas accusing each other of not respecting the accord.

"Hamas and Fatah are asking Egypt to postpone the transfer of the government roles from December 1 to December 10 in order to finalise arrangements to ensure the completion of national reconciliation steps," said a statement from Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip.

Fayez Abu Eita, a spokesman for Fatah in Gaza, said the same in remarks after the factions met in Gaza City, noting it was in the interest of "achieving the goals of our people, achieving reconciliation and ending the division".

In previous days the two sides had traded accusations of failing to respect the October 12 agreement which was supposed to see Hamas hand over all governing duties in the enclave to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority by December 1.

Sharp disagreements remained between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, particularly over the fate of public employees in Gaza and security control of the enclave.

Earlier on Wednesday, Fatah's top negotiator, Azzam al-Ahmad, told AFP that Hamas was "not committed to the agreement it signed in Cairo."

"Until this moment, the problems and obstacles from Hamas are still there and are increasing."

In response, senior Hamas official Bassem Naim accused Fatah of "manoeuvres" to avoid going through with the deal.

Multiple previous reconciliation attempts have failed since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007....

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