Hamas sets new terms for reconciliation with Fatah

GAZA CITY (Reuters) — Hamas has set new terms for implementing a reconciliation deal with President Mahmoud Abbas’s rival Fatah group, an official said on Thursday.Abbas and Khalid Mashaal, Hamas’s political chief in exile, agreed in Qatar earlier this month to form a unity government led by the Western-backed president.But in a rift with the Islamist group’s leadership outside the Gaza Strip, officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave swiftly criticized the accord, particularly its call for Abbas to serve as prime minister as well as president.

At an internal meeting chaired by Mashaal in Cairo on Wednesday, Hamas officials united behind new demands, said a Palestinian official involved in the talks. The terms seemed certain to be rejected by Abbas.

“Hamas demanded to keep the key ministries in the new government, including the ministry of interior,” said the official. “It also demanded no change in the structure of security services in the Gaza Strip.”

The interior ministry oversees the Hamas-run security services, and Palestinian political analyst Samir Awad said the new terms proved the group “was not prepared to abandon control of Gaza”, territory it seized from Fatah in fighting in 2007.

Abbas has been seeking a unity government staffed by independents and technocrats to ensure it would not be boycotted by the West, which donates essential funds to his Palestinian Authority and refuses to deal with Hamas.

Other demands that emerged from the Cairo meeting included naming a Gaza-based deputy to Abbas and making his appointment as prime minister conditional on a vote of confidence in the Palestinian parliament.

The legislature has not been in session since the collapse five years ago of a short-lived Palestinian unity government.

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