Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas agreed on the make-up of a national unity government on Tuesday, officials from both parties said, in the most significant step yet toward healing their seven-year rift. Sources indicated that Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will retain his position.
The groups decided on a list of independent, technocrat ministers who will run government pending national polls in at least six months - moves they hope will revive institutions paralyzed since the parties fought a brief civil war in 2007.
Officials from the parties told a news conference in the Gaza Strip that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will make a formal announcement of the new government later this week after choosing a religious affairs minister.
Israel objects to the reconciliation moves and regards Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel or renounce arms, as a terrorist group. It has threatened financial sanctions against Abbas's Western-backed administration in the occupied West Bank if the unity government goes ahead.
Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah movement said Monday that the new cabinet will be declared Thursday. Ehab Ghussein of Hamas said Monday an announcement is likely in the coming days. The government is to prepare for 2015 elections.
The West views the Islamic militant Hamas as a terror group and it's not clear if it would deal with a unity government, even if Abbas sets a pragmatic tone.
Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, leaving Abbas' forces confined to the West Bank. Previous reconciliation attempts failed, but the rivals today are more flexible due to crisis – Hamas over money and Abbas over the collapse of peace talks with Israel.
Last week, Bassem Naim, an advisor to Hamas's premier for the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, said the Palestinian unity government would be announced in the upcoming days.
“We expect the government to be announced by (Abbas) early the following week,” he said, and will then be presented to the Palestinian parliament for a vote of confidence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report