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Hamas signals post-war ambition in talks with Palestinian rival Fatah

Hamas signals post-war ambition in talks with Palestinian rival Fatah


RAMALLAH: Deep divisions will limit progress at reconciliation talks between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah this month, conversations with five sources in the groups indicate, but the meetings highlight that the militant group is likely to retain influence after Israel’s war in Gaza.

The talks between Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be held in China in mid-June, according to officials from both sides. They follow two recent rounds of reconciliation talks, one in China and one in Russia. China’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

The next meeting will be held amid attempts by international mediators to reach a ceasefire deal for Gaza, with one of the key sticking points being the “day-after” plan – how the enclave will be governed.

Considered a terrorist organisation by many Western nations, Hamas was shunned long before its Oct 7 attacks killed 1,200 people in Israel, with more than 250 hostages taken, triggering the war in Gaza.

But even as it is pummelled militarily, the meetings of Hamas politicians with officials from the Fatah party that controls Palestinian politics in the Israeli-occupied West Bank point to the group’s aim of shaping the post-war order in the Palestinian territories, according to a source familiar with conversations within Hamas.

The person, like other unnamed officials in this story, declined to be named because they weren’t authorised to discuss sensitive matters with the media.

Hamas, which ruled Gaza before the war, recognises it cannot be part of any internationally recognised new government of the Palestinian territories when fighting in the enclave eventually ends, said the source.

Nonetheless, it wants Fatah to agree to a new technocratic administration for the West Bank and Gaza as part of a wider political deal, the source and senior Hamas official Basim Naim said.

“We are speaking about political partnership and political unity to restructure the Palestinian entity,” Naim, who attended the previous round of China talks, said in an interview.

“Whether Hamas is in the government or outside it, that is not a prime demand of the movement and it doesn’t see it a condition for any reconciliation,” he said. Naim, like much of Hamas’ political leadership, operates in exile outside of Gaza.

The prospect of Hamas surviving as an influential political player is a thorny issue for Western states.

Despite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Gaza war goal of destroying the Iran-backed group, most observers agree Hamas will exist in some form after a ceasefire. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement has deep reach and ideological roots in Palestinian society.

The United States and EU oppose any role for Hamas in governing Gaza after the war, during which Israel’s offensive has killed more than 36,000 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry.

Still, some US officials have privately expressed doubt Israel will eradicate the group. A senior US official said on May 14 Washington thought it unlikely Israel could achieve “total victory”.

Killing every member of Hamas was unrealistic and was not the goal of the Israeli army, but destroying Hamas as a governing authority was “an achievable and attainable military objective,” said Peter Lerner, a spokesperson for Israel’s military.

LOW ODDS

Western states support the idea of post-war Gaza being run by a revamped Palestinian Authority (PA), the administration led by Abbas that has limited self-rule over patches of the West Bank. Based in Ramallah, the PA is broadly acknowledged globally as representing the Palestinians and receives security assistance from the United States and the EU.

Led by Abbas, and before him Yasser Arafat, Fatah was the undisputed leader of the Palestinian cause for decades until the rise of Hamas, an Islamist movement.

The PA also ran Gaza until 2007, when Hamas drove Fatah from the enclave, a year after defeating Fatah in parliamentary elections – the last time Palestinians voted.



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