Ahead of the 11th anniversary of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, militant Islamic group Hamas on Tuesday gave his Gaza residence and personal effects to the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
The move was presented as conciliatory gesture by Hamas, which does not belong to the PLO and rejects its policy of seeking peace with Israel.
Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip after forcing out Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement, which dominates the PLO, in 2007.
“Today our brothers in Hamas gave us the home of the symbol of the Palestinian people Yasser Arafat and we hope it will be a step towards ending the division” between the groups, said Zakaria al-Agha, an influential member of the Fatah Central Committee.
Among personal belongings also ceded to the PLO on the eve of the anniversary are Arafat’s gun, items of clothing and photographs.
The house, near the Gaza City fishing port, is where Arafat, popularly known as Abu Ammar, settled with his family after years in exile on their return to the Palestinian territories in 1994, under interim peace accords with Israel.
“Abu Ammar was the symbol of national unity, the only weapon we have with which to confront the (Israeli) occupier,” Agha told AFP.
In the past, Hamas has prevented Fatah from holding commemorative events in Gaza marking Arafat’s mysterious death aged 75, at a hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004.
Last year at least 10 explosions hit houses and cars belonging to senior Fatah members in Gaza days ahead of planned memorial ceremonies.
Fatah cancelled the events, with Abbas accusing Hamas of seeking to destroy reconciliation attempts with the blasts, which caused no injuries.
“This is a milestone on the road to the unity of our people,” said senior Hamas official Ghazi Hammad of Tuesday’s house handover.