Palestinian Unity: Hamas, Fatah Agree to End Years of Division

Factions Aim to Form Unity Government in Five Weeks

Years of on-again, off-again talks between the two primary Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have ended with a formal accord to end years of hostility, and a goal to form a unity government in the Palestinian Authority within five weeks.

westbankThe final deal was signed in Gaza City today, after recent talks went deep into the night, and Hamas PM Ismail Haniyeh declared the “era of discord is ended.”

The most recent Palestinian elections came in 2006, when Hamas defeated Fatah by a surprisingly large margin, winning a significant number of seats in the legislative council.

Under pressure from the US, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas ultimately refused to recognize the results, and in the ensuing conflict Fatah took the West Bank, while Hamas took the Gaza Strip.

Since then, the two factions have remained at odds, and managed their respective territory independently. The lack of Palestinian unity has often been cited as a reason why they have not achieved statehood, though since the unity announcement today Israeli officials have suggested the deal, and not the lack of one, is the new excuse for statehood to be deferred.

Teacher, Children Among Slain as Gaza Toll Rises

The death toll of the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip continues to rise today, with Israeli officials promising a protracted offensive and patting themselves on the back for doing so. And while the war started with the assassination of a Hamas military leader, the more recent deaths suggest the strikes are having a big impact on Gaza’s civilian population.

Israeli violence has left 24 dead and 200 wounded in Gaza. A total of three Israelis have died from rocket-fire coming out of Gaza.

Marwan Abu El Qumsan, a teacher at a UN school, is among the victims, and the UN has had to close its schools because of the growing attacks. Children were also the victims of Israeli attacks, including the 11-month-old son of BBC editor Jihad Misharawi.

The exact split between fighters and civilians in the death toll is unclear, but it seems apparent that civilians are dying at a higher rate, and the massive numbers of wounded in attacks on residential areas seem dramatically skewed toward civilian bystanders.

Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Kandil, visited Gaza to see the destruction and draw attention to the suffering on the Palestinian side, which is unfortunately underreported.

“No one can remain still and watch this tragedy unfold in this fashion,” Kandil said. “This is impossible. The whole world must intervene, and Israel must abide by the agreements and stop the aggression.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shrugged off complaints about the civilian toll, insisting there was no “moral symmetry” between Israeli air strikes killing civilians and Gaza rocket attacks doing so. Netanyahu added that he saw a photo of a bleeding Israeli baby and this proved there was no comparison. It was unclear if he saw the pictures of Misharawi’s slain infant son.

No End in Sight as Civilians Feel Impact of War

by Jason Ditz

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