Hamas due to hand over Gaza in major step toward unity


GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Hamas is due to end its decade-long dominance of Gaza by Friday in its biggest step yet towards Palestinian unity, but hopes raised by a reconciliation deal have already given way to doubts. The Palestinian Authority is supposed to take control of the strip by December 1 under a landmark unity deal signed in October, but its power is likely to be limited to civilian affairs for now—and perhaps only partially. Hamas’s armed wing, which includes some 25,000 militants, remains a major force in the Gaza Strip and has no plans to relinquish its weapons despite calls for it to do so. Officials from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah have also criticized what they call the slow progress so far in transferring control—civilian or otherwise—to the PA. Still, any handover is likely to be heralded by Palestinian leaders as a major breakthrough in their efforts to end the 10-year split between Islamist movement Hamas and Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank. Gazans hope it will help alleviate suffering in the blockaded enclave of two million people, where basic infrastructure such as electricity and clean water are severely lacking.



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