The Palestinian unity government formed last year in a bid to heal rifts between Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party resigned on Wednesday, an official said. "Hamdallah handed his resignation to Abbas and Abbas ordered him to form a new government," Nimr Hammad, an adviser to Abbas, told AFP, referring to prime minister Rami Hamdallah. Discussions to form a new government would include consultations with the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas, he said. Officials have said the planned dissolution of the government, made up of technocrats, had been under discussion for several months because of the cabinet's inability to operate in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. But it also came as Hamas sources said the Islamist movement was holding separate, indirect talks with Israel on ways to firm up an informal ceasefire agreement that took hold last August, ending the 50-day-long Israeli attacks on Gaza. Some have argued that news of the secret talks prompted Abbas to move to dissolve the unity government. A Palestine Liberation Organization official said the new government was likely to be one of politicians rather than technocrats.
Hamas ruled Gaza for seven years, but its administration stepped down last June when the Ramallah-based consensus government was sworn in. Comprised of independent technocrats, the government lineup was agreed by both Fatah and Hamas and given a mandate to govern both the West Bank and Gaza, ending seven years of separate administrations. But in practice, it has been unable to extend its authority to Gaza, which was devastated by deadly 50-day-long Israeli attacks last summer and where Hamas remains the de facto power.
Ahead of Tuesday's meeting, the Revolutionary Council's secretary general told AFP that the cabinet would stand down over its inability to rule in Gaza. "The government will resign in the next 24 hours because this one is weak and there is no chance that Hamas will allow it to work in Gaza," Amin Maqbul said in remarks confirmed by another senior Palestinian official. The government's inability to exert its authority in Gaza has been a major point of internal dispute between Fatah and Hamas. It has also slowed down the vital process of rebuilding Gaza after last summer's devastating war. The government had been expected to play a key role in the reconstruction of the territory by reasserting its authority in Gaza and taking over the border crossings with Israel and Egypt. But with the two sides increasingly divided over a long-running dispute about employees, it never happened. Officials did not say whether the consultations to form a new government would include Hamas.
The 40-strong delegation, including eight ministers, arrived in Gaza on April 19 for a week-long trip but was forced to leave a day later after Hamas accused the officials of bias in resolving a dispute over employees' salaries. The formation of the consensus government was the first fruit of an April 2014 reconciliation agreement between Hamas and Fatah which sought to end seven years of bad blood between the two Palestinian nationalist movements.