Mahmoud Abbas tells Hamas to lay down its arms

The initiative is backed by Egypt which will be closely following the talks, meant to prepare for a transfer of power in the Gaza Strip from Hamas to Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA). In turn, Israeli strikes on Hamas target in Gaza are commonplace.

Hamas has controlled Gaza since seizing it from the PA in a near civil war in 2007, and since then multiple reconciliation attempts have failed.

However, the latest round of Palestinian reconciliation, despite high-profile meetings, looked like it would likely follow previous rounds to the same diplomatic graveyard, as it emerged that the two factions have yet to work out the fundamental issue of the Hamas military arm.

"We return to Gaza in order to conclude reconciliation and national unity and end the painful impacts of divisions and to rebuild Gaza brick by brick", he said. Recent weeks, however, have seen mounting hope that an ongoing Egypt-sponsored reconciliation process will be more successful. "The government does not have a magic wand", he told reporters. "The cause has always been at the top of Egypt's priorities during meetings with world leaders or during worldwide conventions", El-Sisi said.

"The whole world is observing and watching the efforts of achieving reconciliation between the leaders of the Palestinian people", said Sisi in the recorded speech. The sides will hold further talks on Tuesday in Cairo.

Abbas also warned that if these conditions are not met, efforts to form a Palestinian unity government between the rival factions could be halted.

In mid-September, the leadership of Hamas offered to reconcile with the PA on terms previously demanded by Abbas. The United States and the European Union blacklist Hamas as a terrorist organisation, complicating the formation of any potential unity government. It's not yet clear what will become of Hamas' armed brigades, a sticking point for Israel.

For their different reasons, the PA, Israel and Egypt have all been seeking for the last several years to bring the Hamas administration in Gaza to heel and have been putting pressure of various kinds on it. More specifically, Abbas said he would not allow for the recreation of the "Hezbollah experience" in Gaza.

Officials in Ramallah welcomed Hamas' announcement.

The United States appears to share this view. The squabbling palestinian are considered as one of the obstacles to a settlement of the israeli-palestinian conflict and one of the causes of the despair of the two million Gazans crammed on their land jammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.

"For whoever wants reconciliation, our explanation to them is very simple: recognize the state of Israel, dismantle Hamas's military wing and cut ties with Iran", he said.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have been ruled separately since the rift erupted in violence in 2007. "But our people, who emerged from the rubble of the Nakba, are now able to rise again from destruction and suffering of Gaza, to protect their homeland and their future and to live in freedom and dignity".

  • Leroy Wright