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Egyptian efforts to end Palestinian divisions welcomed

Egyptian efforts to end Palestinian divisions welcomed

Hamas has agreed to hold general elections in Gaza in order to bring about an end to its long-running feud with the rival Fatah movement.

Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government, but despite the agreement, Hamas's shadow government has continued to rule the Gaza Strip.

Hamas said it had dissolved the contentious Administrative Committee that runs Gaza, invited Abbas' government to return to Gaza and was ready to hold new elections.

In a statement to Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), he stressed the Government's readiness to assume all its responsibilities in Gaza Strip.

The Hamas statement was issued from Gaza on Sunday following talks with Egyptian officials in Cairo last week.

Fatah has welcomed the new pledges, but said it wants to see vows implemented before making the next move.

It added that it had decided to make the announcement in response to Egyptian efforts to achieve reconciliation and end internal Palestinian divisions.

Gaza's economy is in tatters and it has one of the world's highest unemployment rates. Hamas is under growing financial pressure as Egypt has destroyed numerous smuggling tunnels Hamas used previously, and Abbas has turned up the screws on the rival Hamas by refusing to pay for electricity in Gaza, and cutting salaries for civil servants.

Hamas, however, has been greatly weakened by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, three wars with Israel and worldwide isolation.

The Palestinians have seen multiple attempts at reconciliation in the past, but they have fizzled as the gaps between Fatah and Hamas have grown only wider. The two sides were still in the Egyptian capital of Cairo on Sunday night.

But Fatah said it still needed clarification from Hamas on the handing over of government ministries in Gaza and control of the enclave's border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

Despite Sunday's announcement, any reconciliation deal faces many obstacles.

Repeated efforts since 2011 to resolve the dispute between the two movements and form a unity government in Gaza and the West Bank have come to nothing.

Mending fences with Western-backed Abbas would be another step in Hamas' diplomatic push to improve relations with its neighbour Egypt, which has kept its frontier with Gaza largely closed and accused the group in the past of aiding Islamist militants in Egypt's Sinai desert, something Hamas denies.

United Nations officials have urged Israel to lift its decade-long blockade of Gaza.

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