Palestinian Unity Cabinet To Meet in Gaza

RAMALLAH (AP) -

The Palestinian unity government will hold its first Cabinet meeting in Gaza this week, a key step toward taking charge of post-war reconstruction efforts in the territory, a senior official said Monday.

The Cabinet will convene Thursday, said Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa, three days before an international pledging conference where the Palestinian government will seek $4 billion in aid for Gaza.

Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to take part in the October 12 conference, a U.S. official said Monday.

Donor countries view the unity government of independent experts, led by Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as key to any reconstruction plans.

The purpose of the Gaza meeting is to “see the situation on the ground and to send a message to the donors’ conference that the government is ready to start reconstruction soon,” Mustafa told The Associated Press.

Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, prompting a border closure of Gaza by Israel and Egypt, enforced to varying degrees over the past seven years. After Egypt tightened the closure last year and stepped up its destruction of cross-border smuggling tunnels, Hamas began experiencing severe financial difficulties that made it increasingly difficult for the terror group to govern.

The unity Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, will meet in Abbas’s former residence in Gaza, Mustafa said. Abbas has not set foot in Gaza since the Hamas takeover, and it remains unclear when he might return to the territory.