GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday agreed to form a unity government and hold new elections, making a new attempt to overcome a seven-year split that has left them divided between two governments.
While the announcement was greeted with smiles and celebrations, it remained unclear how the plan would succeed where previous attempts at unity have failed. It also added new complications to U.S. efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel and the West consider Hamas a terrorist group. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, has killed hundreds of Israelis in bombings and shootings over the past two decades.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of sabotaging peace efforts by seeking rapprochement with Hamas.
“Instead of moving into peace with Israel, he’s moving into peace with Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “He has to choose. Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace. So far, he hasn’t done so.”
Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas’ forces in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank. Both sides have become entrenched in their territories, setting up respective governments and their own security forces. The division is a major obstacle to Abbas’ goal of establishing an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza, with east Jerusalem as their capital.