Palestinian PM in Gaza on 1st visit after decade of Hamas rule

West Bank-based Palestinian PM Rami Hamdallah to visit Gaza

The Palestinian unity government is set to assume political and administrative responsibility for the blockaded Gaza Strip, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced Monday after arriving to the strip for a highly-anticipated visit.

But the movement's armed wing remains the dominant power in the Palestinian enclave of two million people.

Palestinian Authority and Egyptian officials on Sunday have begun to enter the Gaza Strip from the Israeli and Egyptian border crossings, in advance of the Hamas handing over control to the Mahmoud Abbas government, Ma'an reported.

An official of the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule body headed by Abbas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said an Egyptian delegation comprised of two generals and Cairo's ambassador to Israel, arrived in Gaza to oversee reconciliation efforts.

In addition to setting a date for holding presidential and parliamentary elections, the factions will have to resolve the issue of the fate of the 40,000 to 50,000 civil and military staff Hamas had hired since 2007. "They are hopeful that this step will alleviate the hard economic situation in Gaza, the border crossings will be open more often, the issue of PA employees will be solved, and that electricity [will] be returned", Modallal told Al Jazeera.

"The Palestinian leadership doesn't want to reach a situation where the Qassam brigades control the situation in the Gaza Strip like Hizbollah does in Lebanon", said Ashraf Ajrami, a former PA minister for prisoner affairs. The current reconciliation effort is seen as having a better chance of success due to Hamas weakness and its need to maintain good ties with Egypt, which is brokering the reconciliation.

"We still have...a number of issues to work out", the senior official said.

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At the Erez (Beit Hanun) crossing, several government ministers and security personnel accompanied Hamdallah.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since the rift erupted in violence in 2007.

"One of the issues is whether Hamas will be able to retain its arms". Moreover, with The Taylor Force Act increasingly likely to be passed by Congress, Washington will be hamstrung in terms of funding any Palestinian entity that promotes terrorism against the Jewish state. But they also paved the way for a bitter showdown over worldwide demands that Hamas surrender its weapons and recognize Israel's right to exist as part of a peace agreement.

"Any noble Palestinian in Gaza would not accept giving up resistance under any condition, because we are a people under occupation".

"There has never been any question" of dismantling the armed wing, said Moussa Abu Marzook, a prominent figure in the Islamist movement. Both sides have an interest. The potential outcomes are numerous, including the very real possibility that the unity talks will once again fail.

The outcome will determine the Palestinians' acceptance on the global stage.

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