Islamic Jihad, Fatah officials hold rare unity talks in Gaza

The Cradle  /  August 16, 2023

The meeting comes as the PA has been intensifying its campaign of arrests against West Bank resistance fighters.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) resistance movement held a rare meeting in the besieged Gaza Strip on 14 August with officials from the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Fatah party, according to a joint statement. 

According to the statement, Khaled al-Batsh, member of the PIJ political bureau, held talks with a member of Fatah’s central committee, Ahmad Halas. 

The representatives of the two Palestinian groups “agreed to continue these meetings in a way that contributes to strengthening bilateral relations between the members and leaders of the two movements in confronting the occupation, restoring the unity of our Palestinian people, strengthening their resistance and preserving the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”

The talks come two days after a meeting was held in Egypt between PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Jordanian King Abdullah II.

The meeting aimed to condemn the recent surge in settler violence, which is carried out with government backing, according to Israel’s own officials. It also aimed to pressure the international community to help revive the peace process – which has been stalled for years. 

With the government’s plans for an annexation of the occupied West Bank, and its continued reluctance to cease illegal settlement expansion – the prospects of reviving this peace process have dimmed further. 

Divisions between resistance groups, the PA, and its Fatah party have also contributed to rising tensions. 

The talks in Gaza between PIJ and Fatah members come as a number of meetings have been held recently with the proposed goal of bridging these divides. 

A meeting was held last month in Turkey between the PA president and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh. 

Days later, a meeting of all the Palestinian factions – previously organized by Abbas – was held in the Egyptian capital Cairo, which aimed to reach a ‘unified national position’ on confronting Israeli occupation, violent raids, and settler crimes.

However, the meeting was generally considered to be a failure. 

The PIJ had initially announced it was boycotting the talks due to PA refusal to abide by an agreement it made to release resistance fighters detained during and after Israel’s operation in Jenin in July last month. 

PIJ officials ended up briefly participating in the meeting, despite stating that it was destined to “fail.”

Other participants in the Cairo meeting shared the PIJ sentiment, such as the Deputy Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Jamil Mezher, who said during the meeting that “It has become clear that the compromise path that the official Palestinian leadership has bet on has become a failure and closed,” adding that negotiations and international pressure on Israel are “nothing but an illusion.”

The PA maintaining its close security ties with Israel and persisting in its crackdown on West Bank resistance groups has been one of the leading factors contributing to the disunity among Palestinian factions.  

Just one day ago, heavy clashes broke out between resistance fighters and PA forces in the West Bank city of Jenin. 

According to Palestinian media, the past few weeks have seen a 30 percent increase in the number of “political arrests” made by the PA. Those detained include resistance fighters, activists, and students.