Photo: Ma'an News Agency
Palestinian girls play inside their school which was destroyed by Israel the 50 day assault last summer, in the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City, on Nov. 5, 2014. (Photo: AFP Mohammed Abed/ Ma’an News Agency)

Gaza, 7 Rabiul Awwal 1436/29 December 2014 (MINA) – Eight Palestinian unity government ministers are to travel to Gaza from its West Bank base on Monday for only the second time since its formation in June, a minister said.

The government was the fruit of an April reconciliation deal between Hamas and the Fatah organization of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Ma’an News Agency quoted by Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA) as reporting.

The announcement comes only a day after top Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouq slammed the government for not asserting its authority in Gaza, and on Sunday protests were held in major Gaza cities demanding the government pressure Israel to end the siege and allow reconstruction to proceed.

The eight ministers are traveling to Gaza to “carry out their duties,” labor minister Mamun Abu Shahla said.

He said security concerns sparked by a spate of bombings targeting the property of Fatah officials in Gaza early last month had prevented them from doing so sooner.

Abu Shahla said that prime minister Rami Hamdallah, who cancelled a planned visit to Gaza in the wake of the bombings, would not accompany the ministers.

“His duties have kept him in Ramallah where he is continuing talks with an Arab state which is soon going to disburse a large sum for the reconstruction of Gaza,” the minister said.

He did not specify which country was offering the aid to rebuild the territory, which was devastated by a 50-day summer war between Israel and Hamas.

The eight ministers who are traveling to Gaza from the West Bank town of Ramallah are the ministers of health, education, social affairs and local government, and the heads of the water, power and environment agencies, who have ministerial rank.

The unity government has only met once in Gaza — on October 9 ahead of a major donors’ conference for the territory.

Before its formation in June, Hamas and Fatah led rival administrations in Gaza and the West Bank.

An April 23 agreement between Hamas and Fatah paved the way for the formation of a government of national unity for the first time in seven years, but Israel has strongly opposed the deal and severely targeted Hamas in the months that followed.

In June, Israeli forces launched a massive offensive across the West Bank and arrested more than 600 Hamas-affiliated individuals, which was followed in July and August with a massive assault on the Gaza Strip that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians.

The political division between Fatah and Hamas began in 2007, a year after Hamas won legislative elections across the Palestinian territories but was subjected to a boycott by Israel and Western countries that left the economy in a fragile state.

Gaza has been under a severe economic blockade since 2007, set into place by Israel after Hamas won democratic elections and later took power in the Strip.

Lifting the blockade has been the main grievance of Gaza militant groups in the bloody conflicts with Israel in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014. (T/P010/P3)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)