The Palestinian Islamist Hamas group said on Sunday it was taking key steps to end a decade-old feud with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Hamas has dissolved its shadow government in the Gaza strip, the militant group said in a statement, adding it will allow a reconciliation government to operate there and is ready to hold elections and enter talks with Fatah.
Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed since Hamas drove forces loyal to Abbas from the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after defeating Fatah in parliament elections.
The takeover led to rival governments, with Hamas controlling Gaza and Abbas governing autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
On Sunday, Hamas said it accepted Fatah’s key demands for ending the split.
These include holding general elections in the West Bank and Gaza and allowing an Abbas-led “unity government” — formed in 2014 but until now unable to start operating in Gaza — to finally assume responsibility there.
The announcement came after separate talks by Hamas and Fatah delegations with Egyptian intelligence officials in Cairo in recent days.
Hamas’s move comes at a time of great hardship in Gaza.
The enclave, which over the past decade has suffered three wars with Israel, has been battered by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, and seen its underground smuggling tunnels destroyed.
Hoping to pressure Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza, Abbas has also cut payments to Israel for the electricity it supplies to Gaza.
As a result, the strip’s two million inhabitants have typically had power for less than four hours a day.
Fatah welcomed the pledge by its Hamas rival, but said it wants to see the promises implemented before making the next move.
Repeated attempts since 2011 to reconcile the two movements and form a unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have so far failed.
The last Palestinian legislative election was held in 2006 when Hamas scored a surprise victory, which laid the ground for a political rupture.
Hamas and Fatah fought a short civil war in Gaza in 2007 and since then Hamas has governed the small coastal enclave.
Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government, but despite that agreement, Hamas’s shadow government has continued to rule the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, 82, has support from Western governments but is an unpopular leader among Palestinians, according to opinion polls.
He has no clear successor and there are no steps being taken toward a presidential election any time soon.