In Gaza City, celebratory gunfire was heard for more than an hour after the
accord was announced. Residents expressed hope it would mean an end to the
violence and the financial boycott, imposed by the West after Hamas came to
power following January 2006 elections.
"We've been holding our breath. God willing, this is a permanent agreement,
not a temporary truce. We hope this will lead to lifting the siege," said
Mahmoud Qassam, a fish seller watching the ceremony at his home in Gaza City's
Shaati refugee camp, yards from Haniyeh's home.
A first test of international acceptance of the deal could come on Feb. 19,
when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas and Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice are due to meet in Jerusalem for talks intended to revive peace
If the West does not back the new government and refuses to lift the economic
boycott, it could put a strain on the fragile peace between Hamas and Fatah.
The deal could also fall apart over the formation of the government -
particularly over the issue of who will fill the vital post of interior
minister, which would control the security forces. Under the agreement, the post
will go to an independent, because Hamas and Fatah were each reluctant to see
the other faction hold the ministry.
Hamas must propose the candidate for approval by Abbas, and it did not appear
that the two sides have settled on a name.
Under the agreement, Hamas will get nine Cabinet posts, including the prime
minister position. Fatah gets six, and other factions get four. Besides the
interior ministry, independents will get the foreign ministry and planning
"There are many details that still need to be worked out after this
agreement, including the interior minister and marketing the agreement to the
international community," said Abdel-Rahman Zaydan, a member of the Hamas
delegation. "The Saudis will be part of this effort."
Abbas had asked Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal to sound out the
Americans on whether "respect the accords" is acceptable, a Fatah delegate said,
speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the