United Nations special coordinator welcomes Hamas reconciliation statement

Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for ten years

In a statement, Hamas said it was "responding to the generous Egyptian efforts, which reflect the Egyptian desire to end the split and achieve reconciliation, and based on our desire to achieve national unity".

Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, when it forced troops loyal to Abbas from the coastal enclave a year after defeating his Fatah movement in parliamentary elections.

In May 2011, Abbas and former Hamas chief Khaled Mashal signed in Cairo a reconciliation agreement, which included the formation of a unity government that prepares for general elections within six months.

Hamas had previously demanded that Abbas halt a series of measures taken against Gaza before sitting down to discuss a reconciliation deal.

Hamas said on Sunday that it had dissolved its administrative committee running Gaza, making way for the arrival of officials from the unity government, who would take control of the area.

In a statement to Palestinian News Agency (WAFA), he stressed the Government's readiness to assume all its responsibilities in Gaza Strip.

Hamas's announcement on Sunday followed separate talks in Cairo last week between Fatah and Egyptian officials and Hamas and Egyptian officials.

The Hamas movement announced early Sunday that it is ready to hand over the Gaza Strip to the consensus government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas has been greatly weakened by an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, three wars with Israel and worldwide isolation. Hamas is under growing financial pressure as Egypt has destroyed numerous smuggling tunnels Hamas used previously, and Abbas has turned up the screws on the rival Hamas by refusing to pay for electricity in Gaza, and cutting salaries for civil servants.

Last Tuesday, Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad, who is now leading the Fatah delegation in Cairo, said if Hamas disbands its administrative committee, Abbas would lift its punitive measures against it.

Mahmoud Aloul, another Fatah official, told the Voice of Palestine radio that the news from Cairo is encouraging, but that: 'We want to see that happening on the ground before we move to the next step'.

However, he wondered if "Hamas committee is the only obstacle for reaching full reconciliation and ending internal division", saying that he is "personally consciously optimistic", because there are many questions that need answers.

There also was no comment from Abbas' government.

United Nations officials have urged Israel to lift its decade-long blockade of Gaza.

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