Rival Palestinian faction parties Hamas and Fatah have signed a landmark accord that will end seven years of division in order to form a unity government and pave the way for elections later in the year.
The two groups announced in a joint statement at the end of their talks in Gaza that the unity government will be formed within the next five months. They also say they've agreed to hold general elections within six months afterwards. Fatah and Hamas further stressed that unity among all Palestinians is specially required today in order to help curb Israeli aggression. The former rivals say they've also discussed the consequences of forming a unity government in terms of potential pressures from Israel. Following the historic agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted angrily, claiming that the Palestinian Authority has chosen Hamas over peace. However, the Palestinian side hit back saying that this is an excuse from the Israelis who have continuously disrupted the talks through settlement expansion, home demolitions, killings, detentions and military raids. The conflict between Hamas and Fatah began in 2006 when Hamas won the elections and took control of Gaza. Since that time, the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party took control of the West Bank while Hamas continued to rule the Gaza strip. This landmark agreement between Hamas and Fatah will end a 7 year long rift between the two parties. They say this unity will not affect the ongoing negotiations with Israel, as it will only contribute to the establishment of a two state solution.