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Hamas begins ceding Gaza border crossings to PA under reconciliation deal

People gather as images of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are seen at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip on November 1, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

The Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has reportedly begun handing over control of the border crossings in the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority (PA) under a newly struck reconciliation agreement.

Witnesses said Wednesday that PA employees had moved into the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border as well as the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings on the frontier with the occupied territories as Hamas members packed up equipment and departed on trucks.

Hisham Adwan, director of information at the Hamas crossings authority, confirmed that PA employees would take full control of the Gaza border.

Nazmi Muhanna, the PA’s top official for border crossings, formally received control of the Rafah crossing from his Hamas counterpart.

Both Palestinian and Egyptian flags are flying at the Rafah crossing.

The development came under a preliminary reconciliation deal signed between the rival factions Hamas and Fatah in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, last month in an attempt to end a decade-long split that has crippled Palestinian statehood aspirations.

Under the agreement, the Fatah-led PA, based in the West Bank, is to resume full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by December 1.

In exchange, the Palestinian Authority will lift its restrictions on electricity supply to Gaza.

The fresh Hamas-Fatah reconciliation efforts have enraged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that the regime would not accept “imaginary appeasement where the Palestinian side is reconciling at the expense of our existence.”

Netanyahu’s office also announced that Tel Aviv would not hold talks with a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas unless the group meets a range of conditions, including disarming and recognizing the Israeli regime.

The Palestinian leadership has been divided between Fatah and Hamas since 2006, when the latter scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in Gaza. Hamas has ever since been running the coastal enclave, while Fatah has been based in the autonomous parts the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Previous reconciliation attempts by the two sides to form a power-sharing unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have failed.

In September, however, Hamas said it had accepted key reconciliation conditions offered by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and underlined its “desire to achieve national unity.”

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