Hamas spokesman Salah Al-Bardaweel Wednesday shot down rumors that the Palestinian terror group had reached a deal with the rival Fatah faction on creating a single government that would govern both the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Fatah-controlled areas of the West Bank.
“These false remarks,” he explained, “hint that Hamas had been refusing the formation of a national unity government but then accepted only because of the severe crises that has resulted from the siege.” He asserted, “This is not right.” The senior Hamas leader reiterated that his movement has never stopped calling for Abbas to form a national unity government. “Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya himself called Abbas in October to form a government,” he said, “but his call was received by deaf ears.”
Hamas’s stature has been in free-fall both domestically and regionally. A week of fighting against Israel in November 2012, which came after months in which Hamas had escalated the amount and sophistication of its attacks on the Jewish state, saw the Palestinian group’s command and control infrastructure severely degraded. The fall of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked government in the summer of 2013 further eroded Hamas’s position, and the Egyptian military subsequently moved to cut off the Gaza-Sinai Peninsula smuggling tunnels that had for years served as Hamas’s economic lifeline. There had been speculation that Hamas’s isolation had caused the group to soften its traditional demands for reconciliation with Fatah, several years after Hamas fighters violently expelled its rival’s officials from the Gaza Strip and seized control of the territory. Al-Bardaweel, however, declared that the rumors were “false remarks”, and that it was “not right” to assert that his organization had accepted “the formation of a national unity government… because of the severe crises that has resulted from the siege.” That the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are ruled by separate Palestinian factions has complicated hopes for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Both territories are claimed by Palestinian officials as areas they reserve for a single future country, but a state in which territory is divided between competing governments is almost by definition a failed state.
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