Factions to work for success of pullout — Qureia

GAZA CITY (AFP) — Factions pledged Thursday to work with the Palestinian Authority to ensure the success of Israel’s historic pullout from the Gaza Strip next month, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said.

A recent wave of deadly violence has compounded fears that Israel’s pullout will be marred by attacks and cast deep shadows over an informal seven-month truce observed by armed Palestinian groups.

But after talks with faction leaders in Gaza City, Qureia said all parties were determined to work constructively together and demonstrate national unity rather than embarrass the Palestinian Authority by launching attacks.

He repeated an offer to the factions to join a national unity government, an idea so far rejected by the likes of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“It was a very important meeting between us and all the factions, where we agreed to organise ourselves for the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank,” he told reporters.

“Everyone confirmed that we want this move to be a success and everyone wants to play a part in its success.”

The meeting, 20 days before the historic withdrawal begins, was the first between the Palestinian Authority leadership and faction representatives since Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas relocated to Gaza to monitor the pullout.

Qureia said the factions had agreed to form a joint committee to prepare for the withdrawal. The committee would be headed by Ibrahim Abu Najar, a member of the mainstream Fateh faction who also heads the umbrella 13-member High Committee of National and Islamic Forces organisation.

There was no immediate comment from the Hamas representatives at the talks. But Khaled Batsh, a local leader of Islamic Jihad, said the meeting had been “positive and fruitful.”

“Abu Alaa (Qureia) talked with us about joint participation on political issues after the Israeli withdrawal,” he told AFP while adding that Jihad would not join a unity government.

Abbas and Qureia are under massive international pressure to ensure the pullout — which marks Israel’s first withdrawal from Palestinian land — takes place free of violence.

Two days after an Israeli couple was killed by Palestinian gunmen, Abbas on Monday moved to Gaza where he vowed to remain until Israel withdraws all soldiers and 8,000 settlers from the territory after a 38-year occupation.

Qureia has frequently said Palestinian security services are ready and able to keep law and order after Israel’s departure.

But a damning independent report this week ruled that Palestinian security is plagued by weakness, factionalism and corruption, hampered by a lack of coordination and oversight, abuse of power and dilapidated equipment.

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