Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Palestinians form 'unity' government with Hamas

JERUSALEM — Palestinians managed to overcome last-minute squabbles to form a new "government of national unity" on Monday, backed by the Islamist militant group Hamas, which the United States and Israel have branded a terrorist organization.

The announcement of a new government, with ministries run mostly by technocrats and headed by current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, represents a significant step toward ending a bitter seven-year feud between the dueling Palestinian political factions that separately control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

But the reconciliation pact between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and does not recognize Israel's right to exist, and the Palestine Liberation Organization and its political party Fatah, sends the Palestinian people and their leaders into uncharted new territory, with plenty of risk.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president and a PLO leader, said the new government continues its pledge of nonviolence and its recognition of Israel. He said any peace talks with the Israelis would take place under the auspices of the PLO, not the interim government.

"Today we declare the end of the split and regaining the unity of the homeland," he said in a prerecorded speech on Palestine TV. "This black page in our history has been closed forever."

Left undecided for now is whether Hamas would allow the new government to run the security forces in the Gaza Strip and whether Hamas would be allowed to operate more freely in the West Bank — permitted, for example, to stage rallies or run social programs, which the group is mostly banned from doing.

Israel says it will reject any government backed by Hamas.

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Sheriff: Tampa crash results in natural gas leak near Citrus Park Mall

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