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Palestinian factions ask Egypt to delay Gaza handover

Fatah's Azam al-Ahmad (R)and Saleh al-Aruri (L) of Hamas sign a reconciliation deal at the Egyptian intelligence services headquarters in Cairo on October 12, 2017
KHALED DESOUKI (AFP)
Fatah says that Hamas has 'not committed' to a unity deal ahead of the Friday deadline

Rival Palestinian factions have jointly agreed to delay a decision to hand over control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority following a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas until December 10 after failing to agree ahead of the initial Friday deadline.

"Hamas and Fatah are asking Egypt to postpone the transfer of the government roles from December 1 to December 10 in order to finalize arrangements to ensure the completion of national reconciliation steps," said a statement from Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip.

A Fatah official confirmed the Hamas statement in remarks following a joint meeting in Gaza City.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday ordered a moratorium on any statements related to Palestinian reconciliation talks as its main factions continued to spar while despite the encroaching deadline.

According to official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, Abbas issued the decision for the sake of national interest as well as relations with Egypt.

The decision comes after mutual accusations of failure to respect the accord which would see Hamas handing over all governing duties in the enclave to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

The handover would have ended the Islamist movement's decade-long control of the coastal territory.

Sharp disagreements remained between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, based in the occupied West Bank, and Hamas, particularly over the fate of public employees in Gaza and security control of the enclave.

Fatah's top negotiator said earlier on Wednesday that rival movement Hamas was "not committed" to a landmark Palestinian reconciliation agreement, two days ahead of a key deadline to implement the accord.

"Hamas is not committed to the agreement it signed in Cairo to end the division," Azzam al-Ahmad, chief negotiator for Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah, told AFP. "Until this moment, the problems and obstacles from Hamas are still there and are increasing."

Under the agreement, Hamas is due to hand over control of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority by Friday after a decade of dominance there, but doubts have emerged over whether it will occur.

In recent weeks hopes for success have faded as the two sides have had a series of disagreements, including over the future of Hamas's armed wing, which both Israel and Fatah have demanded be disarmed.

A number of ministries have been handed over, but others still remain in Hamas's hands.

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