Hamas: Discord over UN report could affect unity deal

Hamas warned on Tuesday that controversy over a damning United Nations report on the Gaza war could affect the Palestinian reconciliation deal that Egypt had announced would be signed on October 26 in Cairo.

“All the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, are angry at the [Palestinian] Authority after what happened with the Goldstone report and this could affect the arrangements for the [reconciliation] dialogue,” Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum told Agence France-Presse.

But he declined to say whether the signing of the reconciliation deal would likely again be postponed.

“According to Egyptian arrangements up to now, the delegations are due to go to Cairo ... and Egypt is to fix the date of the signing of the deal,” he said.

In Ramallah, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat of Fatah confirmed that a deal is due to be signed on October 26 “in the presence of Arab and international personalities”.

Egypt, which has been brokering Palestinian reconciliation talks, announced on Monday that factions would meet in Cairo on October 25 and sign their long-awaited reconciliation agreement the following day.

Hamas has been at the forefront of criticism levelled at Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, head of the rival Fatah faction, for last week agreeing that the UN Human Rights Council defers a vote on a report on the Gaza war compiled by South African judge Richard Goldstone.

The Geneva-based council was to consider whether to pass the report to the UN Security Council and the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, but decided to defer its vote until March 2010 after the Palestinian delegation agreed to the move, reportedly under US pressure.

Abbas has come under withering criticism both at home and abroad over the issue.

Fatah and Hamas have increasingly been at odds since January 2006, when the Islamists routed the long-dominant secular party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.

The two parties had signed a reconciliation deal in Saudi Arabia in February 2007 after months of escalating tensions dissolved into deadly Gaza street clashes.

But four months later the tension boiled over again and a week of deadly street battles ended with Hamas routing pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007, effectively cleaving the Palestinians into two separate entities.

The division, with Western-shunned Hamas in charge of Gaza and Western-backed Abbas running the occupied West Bank, added another obstacle in reaching an elusive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.—AFP

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