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Palestinian Authority government reshuffle angers Hamas

PA accuses Hamas of running rival administration, Hamas says PA has abandoned Gaza
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas (AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced a minor cabinet reshuffle on Monday, naming three new ministers to the national unity government in a move denounced by the Hamas group in Gaza.

The official Wafa news agency said cabinet secretary Ali Abu Diak would take the justice portfolio, while Ehab Bseiso, currently government spokesman, becomes culture minister and Ibrahim al-Shaer social affairs minister.

Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has said he seeks reconciliation between Hamas, which took power following elections in the Gaza Strip in 2007, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

But attempts to proceed with a unity deal signed last year have fizzled out, with Ramallah accusing Gaza of running a rival administration and Hamas accusing the Fatah-led PA of abandoning the blockaded coastal enclave.

Ziad al-Zaza, a senior Hamas leader, quickly denounced the reshuffle, calling it "a move which takes the national consensus and Palestinian reconciliation a lot further away".

Zaza told AFP that Abbas should not "exacerbate divisions by not respecting the participation" of everyone in government.

"We don't recognise them as new ministers, and we will not have contacts with them as ministers," Zaza added.

The rearrangment came as Israeli forces launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Monday, targeting a training site used by Hamas' military wing, Gaza security sources and Israel's army said. The security forces said no injuries resulted from the strikes.

Intermittent rocket fire has come from the Gaza Strip this year, often met with retaliatory Israeli attacks, with the Israeli military making at least 50 incursions into the enclave since the start of 2015, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 

An Israeli air strike in November killed a two-year-old Palestinian and her pregnant mother inside their home.

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