Monday, 2 June 2014

Palestinian unity government of Fatah and Hamas sworn in

After seven years of a bitter and at times lethal rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, a historic Palestinian unity government has been sworn in, ending years of division.

The signing ceremony, which seems likely to complicate relations with the Palestinian Authority's international aid donors in Europe and the US and increase tensions with Israel, was broadcast live in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The US indicated over the weekend that it would wait to see the policies of the new unity government before deciding whether to recognise it, because of Hamas's involvement.

Before the ceremony the US secretary of state, John Kerry, telephoned the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to express "concern about Hamas's role in any such government," the state department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, told reporters.

Israel, which suspended peace negotiations in April when a surprise reconciliation deal was signed, opening the way to the appointment of the new government, has threatened punitive sanctions against any government backed by Hamas, saying it would serve as a front for the group and "strengthen terrorism".

Abbas, who heads the mainstream Fatah movement, has said the 17-member cabinet would comprise unaffiliated ministers and would strive to pursue peace, despite Hamas's refusal to accept co-existence with Israel.

"Today, and after announcing the government of national unity, we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause," Abbas said. more

Israeli airstrikes target Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli airstrikes targeted two sites in the Gaza Strip overnight Sunday, Israel's army and locals said.

A military base used by Hamas' military wing, the al-Qassam Brigades, was hit south of Gaza City, while another strike hit a training site west of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

No injuries were reported.

Israel's army said in a statement that the "IAF aircraft targeted two terror sites in the central and southern Gaza Strip. Direct hits were confirmed."

Meanwhile in the north, Israeli troops fired across the Syrian ceasefire line in the occupied Golan Heights after a projectile struck Israeli territory, the military said. more