A bank affiliated with the Palestinian Authority (PA) government has taken control of tax collection centers along the Gaza Strip's borders with Israel and Egypt, a Hamas official said yesterday. The move is an initial step in a tenuous process of placing the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip under the control of the PA.
Hisham Odwan, spokesman of the Gaza-based corporation for crossings and borders, said the Bank of Palestine assumed tax collection duties at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.
Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement Oct. 12 on ending a decade-long split following talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo, with president Mahmud Abbas calling it a final accord. The move came after two days of negotiations in the Egyptian capital on the governing of the Gaza Strip as part of the most serious effort to date to end the 10-year rift between the rival Palestinian groups. Under the agreement, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority will regain full control of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip by Dec. 1, according to a statement from Egypt's intelligence agency, which oversaw the talks. The two factions agreed to allow the unity government to assume responsibility for all of Gaza's border crossings no later than Nov. 1.
The West Bank and the Gaza Strip have been politically divided since 2007, when Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Fatah, ending a short-lived unity government established after Hamas swept the 2006 legislative elections that were ultimately rejected by Fatah, Israel, and the international community. Hamas has ruled Gaza, while Abbas's Fatah has controlled autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.