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Hamas' Haniyeh says 'ready to meet' Palestinian Authority rival Abbas

In this Sunday March 18, 2007 file photo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, speak as they head the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government at Abbas' office, in
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File
Tensions have been rising between the two largest Palestinian political formations since the end of last year

Hamas political head Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday he is ready to meet chief rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian media reported.

“I am ready to meet with Abbas in Cairo sooner rather than later. Or [for Abbas] to come to Gaza which is part of his homeland,” Haniyeh said.

Relations between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been at an all-time low in recent months, threatening to come to a head again on Wednesday after Palestinian Authority workers were reportedly denied entry to the Kerem Shalom crossing point following Hamas security forces demanding they conform to new security measures.

The most recent tit-for-tat escalation between the rival Palestinian movements began in January when Hamas called dozens of Fatah members in the coastal enclave in for questioning and de facto prevented a rally meant to commemorate the movement’s 54th anniversary.

In response, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) decided to pull its border security personnel from the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, accusing Hamas of interference.

Shortly afterwards, the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza voted to remove PA President Mahmoud Abbas from power in January.

Hamas employees retook the post and negotiated with Egypt, saying they were seeking to maintain control after the PA's withdrawal, eventually leading to the sole passenger crossing between Gaza and Egypt to fully reopen after weeks of strife.

AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra

Still, tensions have been building up between the two largest Palestinian political formations since the end of last year, despite Egypt's attempts to broker for reconciliation.

The PLC, which has largely had a symbolic function since the last elections in 2007 due mainly to the impossibility of assembling in one location, was dissolved by Abbas at the end of 2018.

The Fatah leader dissolved the institution, in which Hamas has a majority, in order to put pressure on the Gaza-based movement as reconciliation talks between the two factions continued to degenerate into an open conflict.

Crossing tensions

Palestinian Authority workers on Wednesday were reportedly denied entry to the Kerem Shalom crossing point after Hamas security forces demanded they confirm to new measures, including requiring a pledge to be signed and for fingerprints to be taken, according to Palestinian media.

The Kerem Shalom crossing, which lies on the borders between Israel, Gaza, and Egypt, has been operated by two families granted control by the Palestinian Authority with authorization by Hamas since 2007.

The crossing serves as the main transportation point for humanitarian aid and commercial goods into the Gaza Strip which is regulated by the Israeli Defense Ministry Crossing Authority security inspectors in coordination with the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Palestinian media in Gaza reported this week that Hamas has begun carrying out extensive security measures at the crossing in response to the belief that the crossing facilitated the unchecked passage of special equipment and individuals who collaborated with Israel in the botched November special-ops mission in Gaza.

The dramatic raid sparked the most severe flare-up in violence between Gaza and Israel since a 2014 war between the sides, with an exchange of rocket fire and airstrikes.

The flareup ended with a ceasefire agreement that prompted the shock resignation of Avigdor Liberman as defense minister, sparking political turmoil in Israel.

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