Rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have failed repeatedly to seal a reconciliation pact, missing a July 7, 2009 deadline for an agreement set by Egyptian mediators. New deadlines have fallen by the wayside.
Here are some questions and answers about the dispute:
Q - What are Fateh and Hamas trying to achieve?
President Mahmoud Abbas of Fateh seeks to reinstate his authority in the Gaza Strip, territory seized by Hamas Islamists in 2007 after bitter recriminations and fighting. Hamas, which won a 2006 election, hopes a unity deal can persuade the West to ease restrictions imposed on the group over its refusal to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept Israeli-Palestinian interim peace accords.
A wider arrangement could include the release of a captive Israeli soldier held by militants in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails and the opening of Gaza border crossings to building materials needed to repair damage from Israelzzz*zs December-January 2009 offensive.
Q - What are the sticking points?
A - Fatah and Hamas have failed to agree to a restructuring of the security services each run in the West Bank and Gaza into unified, non-political forces.
Fatah wants security forces loyal to Abbas to redeploy at the Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Hamas wants Abbas security forces to allow Hamas men to join.
Q - What might happen if they fail to reach an agreement?
A - As long as unity efforts are frozen, Abbaszzz*zs plans to hold parliamentary and presidential elections as early as January 2010 are also difficult to implement.
Failure to reach to an agreement would weaken Abbas in his attempt to establish a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank through peace talks with Israel that have been suspended since January.
Fateh could step up its arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank and Hamas could intensify its detention of Fateh men in the Gaza Strip. Tensions are already high between the two groups, with each accusing the other of mistreating detainees. Several Hamas detainees have died in West Bank jails, causing criticism from rights groups.
(JMCC & Reuters)