Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced early on Wednesday that the unity government his Fatah party formed with political rival Hamas last year would dissolve within 24 hours.
The news came as Hamas sources revealed the group was holding separate, indirect talks with Israel on ways to firm up an informal cease-fire agreement that took hold last August, ending a 50-day war in Gaza.
Close watchers argued that news of the secret talks prompted Abbas to dissolve the unity government — a sentiment Abbas seemingly confirmed when he said the move was necessary “because Hamas didn’t let it work in Gaza.”
As expected, the Authority’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, tendered his resignation to Abbas shortly after the announcement was made. Abbas then ordered Hamdallah to form a new government that includes a range of parties, including Hamas.
But Hamas rejected Abbas’ unilateral decision to dissolve the government.
"No one told us anything about any decision to change and no one consulted with us about any change in the unity government. Fatah acted on its own in all regards," Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told AFP Wednesday.
Hamas officials confirmed on Tuesday the exchange of indirect verbal messages between the group and Israel through European Union, Turkish and Qatari mediators.
The messages concern a possible long-term, extendable cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, under which Israel would allow the construction of a floating seaport linking the Gaza Strip with the rest of the world.
Against this background, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Hamas' deputy leader, and other Hamas officials arrived in Qatar on Tuesday to discuss the truce plan, according to reports.
Salah Bardawil, a senior Hamas leader and legislator, said: "There are a number of European officials who have put forward a verbal initiative for a potential long-term truce in the Gaza Strip that extends the cease-fire from three to five years.”
"So far, no vision or timetable for the implementation of the truce has crystallized," he added.
The Fatah-Hamas unity government was formed last year before Israel and various armed groups in Gaza, including Hamas, clashed. It came after years of feuding between the rival Palestinian groups.
But the government did not function well and the sides have argued over how to carry out reconstruction of the war-battered Gaza Strip and other issues.
Hamas – after winning parliamentary elections in 2006 – had a political falling out with Fatah and violently seized Gaza from Abbas’ control in 2007, leaving him governing just parts of the West Bank. His control of the West Bank is also limited by Israel's military occupation.
Al Jazeera and wire services