Dahlan's Top Aide Reveals Understandings Reached with Hamas
June 17 2017

Given Abbas’ far greater ability to tighten the noose on Gaza, Dahlan and Hamas stand to risk a massive backlash.

Ten years since the battle for Gaza between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinians in the besieged territory are burdened with uncertainties. In addition to the crippling blockade and the threat of Israeli bombardment, Gazans are haunted by the specter of rapidly developing stories from Cairo. Many reports over the past week speculated about an agreement between Hamas’ newly elected leader Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Dahlan, Abbas’ archenemy within Fatah.

While these reports have been met with skepticism from all sides, Dahlan’s senior aide, Samir al-Masharawi confirmed in a brief interview with Alghad TV that “understandings”—conspicuously not the term “agreement”—were reached between Hamas and Dahlan’s faction of Fatah following four meetings held in Cairo.


Despite his long-winded answers, Masharawi only touched upon what seemed like the tip of the iceberg of what we can assume were extensive talks between Dahlan’s Fatah and Hamas. According to Masharawi, the goal of these understandings is “to alleviate the suffering of people [in Gaza].” He also stated that the ideas proposed will be enacted over “the next few days.”

The understandings include a political element aimed at resisting the state of “humiliation and helplessness,” alluding to the current state of affairs under Abbas’ authority in which, according to Masharawi, Palestinians lost their leverage. Masharawi said these understandings also lay the foundation for a “national vision,” including the establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and achieving the right of return. The principles also reflect the Palestinian Prisoners’ Document and the Palestinian Cairo Declaration, prioritizing the national cause rather than depending on negotiations as a means of countering the “inequality of power between us and the Israelis,” Masharawi explained.

Another element of the understandings concerns Gaza’s immediate problems: electricity, the Rafah crossing and humanitarian aid. Additionally, without much elaboration, Masharawi announced that a committee and a fund will be established to “heal the wounds” of the victims of the Hamas-Fatah strife.


Masharawi warned that these efforts will be met with opposition from many forces. He referred to Israeli defense minister Avigdor Lieberman’s dissatisfaction with the flirtation between Hamas and Dahlan. Meanwhile, Abbas is furious over Dahlan’s return to the Palestinian political scene.

For Abbas, the object is to ensure that Hamas remains within his sphere of influence. Thus, his recent moves in Gaza are designed to coerce Hamas in such direction. These include the March 2017 decision to cut the salaries of Gaza-based PA employees up to 70 percent. The decision was then followed by cutting the salaries of the former Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the 2011 Shalit deal. Abbas’ PA also decided to no longer pay for Gaza’s electric supply from Israel, leaving Gazans with an average of a three-hour supply per day. Most recently, the PA has also blocked 11 websites known to be affiliated with Hamas and Dahlan.


Hamas has limited options, especially after the political isolation of its most important regional ally: Qatar.

It is difficult to tell whether the Dahlan-Hamas understandings will come to fruition, and the extent to which they are backed by the Saudi-UAE-Egypt bloc, especially since Hamas has been declared a terrorist organization by U.S. President Donald Trump, a position reiterated by UAE officials.

The pace of developments has left more questions than answers. Is it possible that Dahlan, who serves as security adviser to the UAE’s powerful crown prince Shaykh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is entrusted with a mission by the newly forming alliance to politically neutralize Hamas, perhaps by reaching an agreement between the rival factions? To what extent is Israel involved in such an arrangement? What is the position of Sisi’s Egypt on this potential deal? This latter question is important because Hamas can play a crucial role in Egypt to stop activities that embolden the Muslim Brotherhood and threaten Egypt’s national security interests in the Sinai.

Regardless of the answers, what the Dahlan-Hamas flirtations reveal for certain is that there is a force within Fatah apparently backed by a strong external axis that counters Abbas’s policies. Nonetheless, that Hamas and Dahlan, a figure reviled among Hamas supporters in the aftermath of the violent 2007 confrontations in Gaza, might become allies represents a desperate attempt by both to recalibrate their political status in a changing political order. But, given Abbas’ far greater ability to tighten the noose on Gaza, Dahlan and Hamas stand to risk a massive backlash.

About The Author: 

Jehad Saleem, from Gaza, Palestine, is a PhD student in history at New York University. His research focuses on history of the Gaza Strip and the intellectual history of the Palestinian left.

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