Gaza: Hamas on Tuesday invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to send officials to Gaza to resume control of the coastal enclave that the Islamist group seized a decade ago.
Hamas leader Esmail Haniya said his group is serious about returning power to the Western-backed Palestinian leader and called on him to respond with “practical steps.”
Hamas has said it will dismantle a contentious committee that has governed Gaza in recent months — answering a key Abbas demand.
It has also said it is ready to hand over all government functions to Abbas and to hold elections in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
“We extend a clear and frank invitation without obstacles for the consensus government to work in Gaza,” Haniya said after returning from Cairo, where he and other Hamas leaders held rare talks with Egyptian officials.
Hamas is in financial and political distress after years of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade as well as recent economic pressure from Abbas.
The militant group won legislative elections in 2006 and the following year seized control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas’ forces, leaving the Palestinian President in charge of autonomous enclaves in the occupied West Bank.
Several past attempts at ending the rift have failed, and thorny issues remain, including security arrangements in Gaza.
Hamas has thousands of armed fighters and a sizeable arsenal of rockets and mortar shells. It has always resisted calls to disarm or place its men under Abbas’ control.
The two Palestinian factions are also divided over Israel. Abbas has recognised Israel and renounced violence, while Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction.
Haniya praised the rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt, which cut ties to the militant group and strengthened the Gaza blockade after the military overthrew elected Islamist president Mohammad Mursi, who had supported Hamas, in 2013.