Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is believed to be preparing to cut all funding to the Gaza Strip in an effort to end the power struggle between his Fatah movement and rival faction Hamas, after reconciliation efforts failed, anonymous sources in Ramallah have revealed. According to Asharq Al-Awsat, Fatah officials have rejected Hamas's demands to retain security control over the Gaza Strip and collect taxes there, along with a deal that would see the government absorb tens of thousands of Hamas employees.
"President Abbas is about to take a decision to halt all [PA] funding to the Gaza Strip," Ramallah officials were quoted as saying. "He believes that all opportunities have been exhausted, and it is no longer possible to keep the situation in the Gaza Strip as it is."
Earlier this week, a senior Fatah delegation met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and intelligence officials in Cairo to discuss the ongoing tensions between the PA and Hamas. Egypt has attempted to broker a reconciliation deal between the two factions, but has so far failed to reach an agreement.
Senior Fatah member Azzam Al-Ahmad, who was leading the delegation, told reporters that for the PA, ending the Fatah-Hamas rift and achieving national unity was an important factor in "thwarting Israeli schemes" against the Palestinians. Such apparent concern for all Palestinians, including those in Gaza, has not been obvious on the ground, with the PA under Abbas imposing its own punitive measures against the people in the besieged enclave since April last year.
Talks between the Palestinian factions have stalled in recent months. Although Fatah and Hamas signed an agreement in Cairo last year in an attempt to advance reconciliation efforts and restore the PA's governing authority in Gaza, they failed to make progress in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Relations got worse following the attempted assassination of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah during a trip to Gaza in March for which the PA blamed Hamas; the resistance movement denied the allegation. The three men identified by Hamas as suspects involved in the bombing were later killed in a shootout with its forces in Gaza on 22 March.
In recent weeks, the PA has condemned Hamas for conducting indirect talks with Israel on reaching a new truce agreement in the Gaza Strip, arguing that only the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) has the authority to negotiate with Israel as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
In a speech on Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh accused the PA of hindering efforts to end the dispute. "Fatah's demand that it assume control over everything in the Gaza Strip is making it difficult to achieve progress," he explained, adding that the movement would not accept having to pay any political price for negotiating with Israel for an end to the blockade imposed on the enclave.
The PA has threatened to sever security cooperation with Israel if the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted. It is seeking to exploit the situation to put pressure on Hamas into handing over control of the coastal territory.
"Hamas wants to take the Palestinian cause back to the humanitarian path, and this is precisely what Israel wants," claimed Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh in response to Haniyeh's comments. "This constitutes an admission on the part of a Palestinian faction that the Palestinian cause is not about self-determination, freedom, a state, Jerusalem and refugees."
The PA is currently battling against the US and Israel, as the Trump administration prepares to release the second edition of the "deal of the century". Abbas has invited Middle East envoys, foreign ministers and UN Security Council diplomats to a meeting in New York next week, prior to the UN General Assembly, to discuss prospects for peace. It is an effort to garner support against the Trump peace plan, which is not believed to recognise a Palestinian state.