Hamas Agreed to Cede Gaza Strip 'to Win People's Hearts Back After Decade-long Suffering'

Islamic militant group Hamas has agreed to cede control of the Gaza Strip in what some analysts believe is a major step forward to achieve peace and unity in the area.

The group is due to end control of the territory by December 1, and hand it over to the Palestinian Authority (PA), controlled by its rival, the Fatah party, AFP reported.

Hamas and Fatah were involved in an armed conflict that resulted in the split of the interim government body, the PA, in 2007. Hamas has been controlling the Gaza Strip ever since. The two organizations have failed to form a unity government and, for the past decade, the territories have failed to hold elections in which both groups take part.

Hamas has fought three wars with Israel in the past years. As a result, Gaza has been under a blockade imposed by Jerusalem for a decade.

The dire situation for the 2 million Gazans blocked in the enclave was exacerbated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' decision to apply restrictions, including cutting electricity payments, to put pressure on the group.

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Hamas' decision to hand over territories is part of an Egypt-brokered deal to reach peace in the region. As part of the agreement, Hamas ceded Gaza's border crossings with Israel and Egypt to PA earlier in November.

Although the recent concessions are seen as step towards reconciliation, some analysts believe Fatah's power would be limited to civilian affairs and Hamas would still retain control of the area unless its 25,000-strong armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, agrees to relinquish weapons.

PA officials said true conciliation is not possible without disarmament. Hamas said a compromise is possible, but only concerning the police.

"Full disarmament is not a likely outcome of this process. What we may likely see is some kind of half concession, enough to show willingness to reach a reconciliation," security analyst and counter-terrorism expert David Otto told Newsweek.

The UN has condemned the situation in Gaza, where people are in need of food and basic services. The organization's secretary general, Antonio Guterres, labelled the strip as "one of the most dramatic humanitarian crises" and warned it could be become "unliveable" by 2020.

Otto says: "The 2 million residents of Gaza Strip have gone through economic hardship and constant fighting for the past ten years under Hamas.

"Hamas is only relevant if it has the support of the people, if the people begin to lose trust in Hamas, it forces the group to consider reconciliation with Fatah to ease economic pressure as a way to win back hearts of minds of those under their control."