United Nations 'carefully optimistic' on Fatah-Hamas reconciliation

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While Hamas wants the PA to integrate its 40,000 employees into its payroll, the PA has said in previous reconciliation attempts that it can not afford to absorb a lot of them and would like its employees in Gaza to go back to work.

This project will take another two years to be completed and will stretch into the Mediterranean to prevent terror incursions and infiltration from Gaza into Israel by sea. It follows Hamas' surprising announcement by earlier this month that it will dissolve its administration and embrace fresh efforts at reunification with Fatah.

"There is no other way, they have to make the reconciliation work this time", the former police officer says.

Abbas has unsuccessfully tried numerous times to fix the rift with Hamas and rebut Israeli assertions that peace negotiations are pointless because he controls only the West Bank and can not ensure that any peace treaty will also hold in Gaza.

Hamdallah drove through the Israeli Erez crossing, heading a large delegation of Fatah officials from the West Bank trying to end the dispute.

Palestinian media reports said that PA culture minister Ehab Bessaiso also arrived, taking charge of his ministry's Gaza offices and meeting staff.

Multiple previous reconciliation efforts have failed, but the United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process, Nikolay Mladenov, told AFP there were real reasons to believe they could buck the trend.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas has sought to punish Hamas for establishing what was seen as a rival government, reducing fuel payments for Gaza but harming the lives of ordinary citizens.

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The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from rival Palestinian faction Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept 2006 legislative polls that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel and the worldwide community.

The deal has drawn skepticism from veteran Palestinian officials, who argue that Hamas has no intention of adopting Abbas's commitment to making peace with Israel and only accepted the agreement to escape the burden of governing Gaza.

An Egyptian delegation, and the UN's Special Co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, have also gone to Gaza to oversee the transition.

"One of the issues is whether Hamas will be able to retain its arms". "There will be no Palestinian state without Gaza".

Mr Ajrami said it is possible, however, that in order to allow the reconciliation to proceed Abbas will agree that the Qassam brigades keep their weapons for now as long as they do not interfere in the working of the PA government or take actions that could cause war with Israel. Moreover, with The Taylor Force Act increasingly likely to be passed by Congress, Washington will be hamstrung in terms of funding any Palestinian entity that promotes terrorism against the Jewish state.

But the deputy head of Hamas' political wing, Dr. Moussa Abu Marzouk, said that the group's military wing is not up for discussion.

The outcome will determine the Palestinians' acceptance on the global stage.

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