Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah reached a partial agreement on Thursday to put plans of a unified government back on track after rifts that followed Israel’s latest war in Gaza threatened to reopen old wounds.
Following two days of meetings in Cairo, officials from the rival groups agreed that the unity government, run by President Mahmoud Abbas, would take control of the war-stricken Gaza Strip.
"It was a must to move quickly and to get rid of all kinds of obstacles facing the national consensus government," Azzad al-Ahmed, the head of Fatah’s delegation, told reporters. "We discussed the importance of starting the Gaza reconstruction following the 2009, 2012 and 2014 Israeli aggressions against Gaza."
In a recent report, Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) government said Gaza reconstruction work would cost $7.8 billion, two and a half times the strip’s gross domestic product, including $2.5 billion for the reconstruction of homes and $250 million for energy.
Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford, reporting from Gaza, said that the security details of Thursday’s agreement remained the toughest.
"We have heard these pledges before, and Hamas had previously told the PA that they are ready to receive security forces to police over the region, and that they're willing to give up the borders," Stratford explained, adding that the forces never arrived and that the PA had accused Hamas of delaying the process.
"The unity government was hindered by rifts since the cease-fire began, which would've potentially threatened the indirect talks with Israel, and eventually the reconstruction of Gaza," he said.
The United Nations, Israel and the PA reached a deal on Sept. 16 to allow reconstruction work in Gaza, almost a month after a cease-fire pact was reached between Israel and Hamas, ending 50 days of deadly cross-border fighting.
More than 2,100 Palestinians, three-quarters of whom were civilians, were killed during the war with large areas of the strip left in ruins. Sixty-nine Israelis, mostly soldiers, were also killed.
The Gaza cease-fire struck in August between Israel and the Palestinians stipulates that the PA, led by Abbas, should take over civil administration in Gaza from Hamas.
But a dispute over the PA's non-payment of salaries to Gaza's public sector workers brought tensions between the two factions to a near-breaking point.
This includes some 50,000 former employees of Hamas, including those of the security and civil services, and workers from the health and education sectors.
"All civil servants will be paid by the unity government because they are all Palestinians and it is the government of all Palestinians," said Fatah’s Ahmed.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, chairman of Hamas' political bureau, said control of Gaza's border crossings, another contentious issue, would lie with the U.N. in addition to the unity government.
"The U.N. will come to an agreement with Israel and the unity government on how to run the crossings," Marzouk said. He added that the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was not part of the talks.
Hamas' ties with neighboring Egypt have been strained since last year's unseating of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Hamas, an offshoot of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, is accused by the new leadership in Cairo of meddling in Egypt's affairs.
Al Jazeera and wire services