ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel with a look at a deal that could end a decade of division and political stalemate within the Palestinian leadership. The Islamist militant group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip 10 years ago, but the Palestinian Authority kept control of parts of the West Bank. And that split has contributed to the miserable conditions in Gaza. Today, the two rivals reached a preliminary deal for Hamas to hand Gaza back to the Palestinian Authority.
And NPR's Daniel Estrin has been following this from Jerusalem. Daniel, first, tell us what happened today.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: There were marathon talks for two days in Cairo, and then very early this morning the leaders of the two Palestinian groups signed an agreement. And according to that agreement, the Palestinian Authority will take control of Gaza's border crossings no later than November 1, and it will assume full governing responsibilities in Gaza no later than December 1. And leaders from both sides say this is about Palestinian unity. And here's what Hamas leader Saleh al-Arouri said in Arabic.
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SALEH AL-AROURI: (Speaking Arabic).
ESTRIN: "Our house is one. Our suffering is one. Our fate is one. Our future is one."
SIEGEL: And what exactly is this agreement supposed to achieve?
ESTRIN: Well, the Palestinian hope is that it will end a decade of misery in Gaza, and that it will open Gaza up to the outside world because when Hamas took over 10 years ago, Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza. And very few people can leave Gaza. Unemployment is very high. Hamas fought three wars with Israel. And humanitarian conditions in Gaza have become really dire.
So, you know, because the Palestinian Authority is recognized as a legitimate government by the world, Palestinians hope that if the Palestinian Authority is back in control in Gaza, Egypt would open its border crossing with Gaza and Gaza's isolation would end. But there are still a lot of very key issues that the two sides have not yet agreed on. So today's agreement is just one step in what's going to be a very long process.
SIEGEL: But talk about those major issues that divide Hamas and Fatah.
ESTRIN: Well, one issue is a very local one, and that's jobs. Hamas wants its tens of thousands of bureaucrats that run Gaza and that have run Gaza for 10 years to have a source of income when the Palestinian Authority takes over. So that's been one sticking point that has actually made past attempts at reconciliation fail. A major issue is Hamas' weapons and its rockets. The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, wants Hamas to disarm, and they haven't yet negotiated that point.
SIEGEL: You're in Jerusalem. What's Israel saying about all this?
ESTRIN: Well, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posted about this on Facebook. He said, any reconciliation deal must make Hamas disarm and, quote, "end its war to destroy Israel." He said a reconciliation deal makes peace harder to achieve. Now, the U.S. has said it wants the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza again. And the Palestinian Authority is hoping that if it unites the Palestinian territories, if it's in control of the West Bank and Gaza, then it will have a unified voice to press Israel for an independent state.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem. Daniel, thank you.
ESTRIN: Thanks, Robert.
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