Hamas began the process of transferring authority over Gaza border crossings to the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority on November 1. Proceedings went according to the October 11 plans set by the reconciliation deal between Hamas and rival Palestinian faction Fatah, which was brokered by Egypt.
Many see this as a major step towards unifying the disjointed Palestinian state. Officials in Gaza hope this action will help end the Israeli and Egyptian blockades at the Gaza border, which have been in place since 2007 and have suppressed the local economy during a period of civil war and humanitarian strife.
Since 2007 the Gaza territory has been governed separately from the West Bank territory. In-fighting between different factions of the Palestinian people has weakened their cause to push back against Israeli influence. There is a rising sentiment that the recent transfer of authority is a sign that we may see a more unified Palestine in the near future. PA Public Works Minister Mufeed al-Hasayneh claimed that the word split will not exist in the Palestinian dictionary anymore.
This transfer of authority is good news not only to Palestinians, who see this as the first step towards a more unified and powerful Palestinian coalition, but also to Israelis and much of the international community, who are relieved to see Hamas taking a backseat to the less militant Fatah faction. They are also relieved to see the first sign of hope for the Gazan economy in a long time. Many Hamas-imposed levies on the Gaza border have already been canceled, and more are planned to be abolished.
Most significantly, Hamas is surrendering power over the Rafah crossing into Egypt, which has been tightly blockaded after Israel and Egypt sought to prevent arms entering the country after the Hamas takeover. This checkpoint is crucial in facilitating trade and allowing the free movement of people, including many refugees and asylum seekers, in and out of the Gaza strip.
Many have speculated Hamas’ cooperation with its rivals was provoked by the Qatar blockade which began in June 2017, rendering them less capable of providing Hamaswith the funding necessary to carry out their long-term goals. However, correlation between the Qatari diplomatic crisis and the border transfers still lacks concrete evidence.
Regardless, there is hope on the horizon that Gazans will soon be able to reap the benefits of free trade and hope for all Palestinians that unification may offer them more leverage in furthering their geopolitical agenda.