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Dahlan reveals details of controversial Hamas deal, says Gaza border will reopen Open in fullscreen

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Dahlan reveals details of controversial Hamas deal, says Gaza border will reopen

The former Fatah strongman is a fierce rival of President Mahmoud Abbas. [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 July, 2017

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Former Fatah strongman Dahlan has for the first time revealed details of a power-sharing deal with former arch rivals Hamas, saying the Gaza border could be opened imminently.
Exiled former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan has for the first time revealed the details of a power-sharing deal with former arch rivals Hamas, saying the Gaza border could be opened imminently as a result of the agreement.

In June, reports emerged of a strategic alliance between Dahlan, 55, and Hamas officials in Gaza, with several meetings facilitated by Egyptian officials in Cairo.

Following the talks, Egypt allowed fuel into Gaza to alleviate a years-long energy crisis, which had been exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority's refusal to pay for electricity to the besieged enclave.

The Egypt-Gaza border is expected to open by late August and funding has been secured for a $100 million power plant, Dahlan told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

"Everyone who needs to travel will be able to travel," he said.

Dahlan said his personal relationship with Hamas's new Prime Minister Yahya Sinwar helped forge the once unthinkable alliance, with both men growing up in Gaza's tough Khan Younis refugee camp before joining rival Palestinian national parties.

Living in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi since being expelled from Fatah in 2011, multi-millionaire Dahlan has built close ties with the Emirati elite and Egypt

"We both realized it's time to find a way out" for Gaza, Dahlan said in an hour-long conversation with the AP on Saturday, adding that both sides have learned lessons from the destructive rivalries of the past.

As Gaza's security chief following the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, Dahlan led a brutal crackdown on Hamas members.

He was also accused of commanding fighters during bitter factional fighting following Hamas' electoral victory in 2006 over the long-dominant Fatah party, which was ousted from Gaza in 2007.

'No ambitions for president'

Living in self-imposed exile in Abu Dhabi since being expelled from Fatah in 2011, multi-millionaire Dahlan has built close ties with the Emirati elite and Egypt, and has numerous business interests in the region.

Despite long-standing rumours of his desire to return to Palestine, and a bitter rivalry with Mahmoud Abbas, Dahlan told the AP that he has no desire to be Palestinian president.

"I have no ambitions to be president," he said. "Maybe that was the case when I was younger, but now I see the situation. ... Seventy percent of the land is in the hands of the Israelis, and they have no intentions to give us a state."

Fatah have dismissed the Dahlan-Hamas alliance, with senior Abbas aide Azzam al-Ahmed saying on Sunday that the agreements "are going nowhere."

Dahlan, who has not returned to Gaza since 2007, said he will remain in exile and advocate for Gaza abroad.

He said Dahlan and Hamas would not be able to cover the current funding the PA provides for Fatah loyalists, welfare, and electricity, and says Egypt has assured Abbas "they are not going to help any new entity in Gaza."

The deal, however, would not have been possible without Egyptian mediation, with both Sisi and the UAE backing the agreements.

Although in its early stages, it seems to benefit all involved.

Egypt will be able to contain Hamas through new security arrangements along their shared border, while cash-strapped Hamas can maintain its rule in Gaza through the promised border opening.

Hamas officials have said the group will remain in charge of security in Gaza, with several of Dahlan's lieutenants and key supporters set to return from exile.

Dahlan, who has not returned to Gaza since 2007, said he will remain in exile and advocate for Gaza abroad.

"It's better for Gaza that I stay in the diaspora and approach everyone who can extend a helping hand to Gaza," he said.

A UAE-backed compensation fund will also begin distributing money to families affected by Fatah-Hamas fighting, in an attempt to buy calm.

Blow to Abbas

If the deal goes ahead it would deal a massive blow to Abbas, further side-lining him from full control over Palestinian politics.

In recent months, Abbas has implemented a series of punitive measures on Gaza to force Hamas to concede power, cutting electricity, slashing salaries, dismissing civil servants, and halting medical supplies.

While the recent deal allows Hamas more autonomy, it could also further cement the political division between Gaza and the West Bank, creating a de facto mini-state in Gaza.

For decades since the Oslo Accords, Palestinian leaders including Abbas have unsuccessfully sought to establish a state in West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, with prospects for a two-state solution increasing unlikely.

Dahlan, however, dismissed concerns that Gaza would turn into a separate state, saying he would do everything in his power to prevent the territories drifting apart.

"We are patriots, not separatists," he said.

The new deal is intended to revive Palestinian political institutions, Dahlan said, and eventually could lead to the formation of a national unity government and revived parliament.

Abbas is welcome to lead such efforts, Dahlan added, but "we are not going to wait for him forever".

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