Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas sign reconciliation deal in major breakthrough

Haniyeh Hamdallah

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah shakes hands with Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City

Further information will be announced at a noon news conference (10GMT) in Cairo, where unity talks between the rival factions began on Tuesday.

Since that seizure of power, Hamas - which is considered a terrorist organisation by both Israel and the U.S. - has ruled Gaza while Fatah, led by Palestinian figurehead Mahmoud Abbas, has controlled the West Bank. Hamas and Fatah agreed to transfer administration of Gaza to Union government at latest until December 1st.

Ismail Haniyeh, leader of Hamas, said that a deal had been struck after two days of talks brokered by Egypt.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he wants weapons to be under unified control.

Two weeks before this, another meeting will be held in Cairo (on November 14) between representatives of all Palestinian factions, the same source said, adding that this meeting would discuss "mechanisms" for implementing the reconciliation agreement.

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Certain success in overcoming the split was reached in September when Cairo hosted talks of Egypt's intelligence first with the Hamas delegation and then with Fatah emissaries.

Fatah officials said the two sides agreed that the Palestinian Authority would take over responsibility for Gaza's border crossings no later than November 1 and that full governing responsibilities would be handed over to the Palestinian Authority by the beginning of December.

He went on to say that Abbas planned to reverse all measures he had recently taken against the Gaza Strip, which since mid-2007 has been governed by Hamas.

He added that sanctions taken by Abbas against Gaza will also soon be lifted.

The official was referring to the diplomatic Quartet on Middle East peace, which includes the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and Russian Federation.

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Gaza, which sits on the Mediterranean coast and is fenced in by heavily-patrolled barriers on three sides bordering Israel and Egypt, has been a frequent battleground over the past decade, during which Hamas has fought three wars with Israel.

But the move was seen as mainly symbolic, with Hamas still effectively in charge in the Palestinian enclave of two million people bordered by Egypt, Israel and the Mediterranean Sea.

Since then, the relations between the two rival factions have been very tense and all attempts to reconcile them over the past years have failed to bring fruit.

There was no indication that an understanding had been reached on the fate of Hamas's armed wing, a sticking point which analysts have said could yet scupper reconciliation efforts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Palestinians against "bogus reconciliations", and reiterated Tel Aviv's demand for the disbandment of Hamas's military arm.

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