GAZA CITY — The ruling Hamas movement and Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed early on Saturday, October 28, to work together to end armed clashes in the Gaza Strip.
“Both movements have agreed not to deploy armed men on the streets, end all armed clashes and protect public property,” IslamOnline.net quoted Ibrahim Abu Annaja, the Secretary of the Inter-Palestinian Steering Committee.
Both factions agreed to keep all their gunmen off the streets on Saturday and allow only the police to patrol.
“Hamas and Fatah will help the police forces to deploy and they will prevent any rallies or armed displays by their members,” added Abu Annaja.
The agreement was brokered late Friday, October 27, by leaders from the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Hamas accused some loyalists of President Mahmoud Abbas of plotting a “coup attempt,” warning that they planned to storm some public buildings on Saturday.
But after Friday’s meeting, senior Hamas leader Fathi Hammad was quoted by Reuters saying: “fears that some may try to carry out a coup attempt have vanished.”
The power struggle between Hamas and Fatah has intensified in recent weeks after they failed to agree on a coalition government.
At least 20 people have been killed in recent internal violence, prompting fears of civil war.
Talks on a unity government collapsed because Hamas and Fatah could not agree on terms that might have led to an easing of a Western aid embargo, which is designed to push Hamas to recognize Israel and accept past accords.
Tensions have been exacerbated by the worsening economic situation as a result of the embargo. That has led to strikes and protests by some government workers and members of the security forces.
Meanwhile, one of the three Palestinian factions taking prisoner an Israeli soldier in the Gaza Strip said on Saturday that it expected a solution to the crisis within days.
It was the first time since Corporal Gilad Shalit was taken prisoner in a cross-border raid in June that any of the factions has said that his release could happen soon.
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) said in a statement, carried by Reuters, that the three groups had agreed to a proposal by Egyptian mediators, though it said a deal still depended on Israel.
Israeli officials made no immediate comment.
The PRC did not give details, but said the Egyptian proposal would include the release of Palestinians held by Israel.
“The dawn of freedom to the prisoners is about to rise and we expect a solution to our prisoners in few days,” said a PRC spokesman. “We confirm to you that there is a definite move in the issue of the captured soldier.”
Hamas said this week that it was optimistic about resolving the crisis, but did not set any
time frame. The armed wing of Hamas was also among the groups involved in the prisoner-taking..
Hamas and its allies have demanded the release of up to 1,400 Palestinians, including minors and women, held by Israel in exchange for Shalit. Israel has said Hamas must first release Shalit and then it will consider any prisoner release.
Last week, Israel’s infrastructure minister, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, held talks in Cairo and afterwards expressed approval of a framework deal that Egypt had put forward, but he did not give details of the deal.
Shalit’s capture prompted Israel to send troops back into the Gaza Strip almost one year after withdrawing from the territory it had captured in the 1967 war. More than 260 Palestinians, about half of them civilians, have been killed in the subsequent Israeli offensive.
The prolonged operation is seen by the Palestinians as a bid to topple the Hamas-led government.