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Palestinian PM Arrives in Gaza in First Step in Reconciliation

Palestinian PM Arrives in Gaza in First Step in Reconciliation

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and his government arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday boosting hope of national reconciliation after 10 years of division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He said Hamas will push for the success of bilateral talks with Fatah under Egyptian supervision next week in Cairo that will follow up the restart of the PA government in Gaza.

"I call on everyone without exception to embrace the leadership, reconciliation, national unity and to put our national interest above all narrow party considerations and interests", Hamdallah said on a small and overcrowded stage, squeezed between Palestinian officials and security detail. But differences over security and in particular the role of Hamas's Izzedin Al Qassam armed wing are among remaining major challenges to unity.

"Returning the government back to Gaza strengthens the hand of those who want peace and who want to achieve peace between Palestine and Israel, and who want to do that on the basis of negotiations rather than violence".

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

"The word "reconciliation" is sometimes understood by Hamas in one way, and the West Bank in another way", says Sami Abdel-Shafi, an independent political consultant in Gaza City.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 after overrunning the Fatah-led forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We came with instructions from Abbas to tell the world from the heart of Gaza that the Palestinian state can not and will not be established without geographical and political unity between Gaza and the West Bank", Hamdallah said.

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Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a political scientist in Gaza, said Egypt seems particularly interested in reconciliation this time, including "supervising its execution".

Dahlan, based since 2011 in the United Arab Emirates, is behind an influx of cash to prop up Gaza and detente between Hamas and Arab states including Egypt, which hosted reconciliation talks.

Following the press conference on Monday, Hamdallah visited the Shujaiyeh neighborhood in Gaza, where he met with a Palestinian who lost his home during Operation Protective Edge.

"The agenda is crowded with ideas and projects", Culture Minister Ehad Bseisso said.

In this respect, Eisen believes that there is "no chance whatsoever [that Hamas will agree to disarm]".

Along with the European Union and Israel, the U.S. views Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, as a terrorist group.

In addition to setting a date for holding presidential and parliamentary elections, the factions will have to resolve the issue of the fate of the 40,000 to 50,000 civil and military staff Hamas had hired since 2007.

Gaza has suffered acute shortages of electricity and medical supplies this year as a result of punitive measures imposed by Abbas in an effort to ratchet up pressure on Hamas.