The two most dominant, but rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas have announced they have reached a reconciliation deal. The reports have been vague, and there is some skepticism, but a mending of disagreements between the two parties would mean a unified Palestinian Authority for the first time since 2007, when civil war broke out following Hamas's victory in elections. The Palestinian unity government overseeing all Palestinian territory collapsed, leaving Hamas in control of the Gaza Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank. (The photo above, from 2007, shows Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, left, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, right, in parliament.)
News reports say Fatah and Hamas have reached a preliminary agreement in Cairo today to form an interim government and hold a general election within the year, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, with a signing ceremony expected later on Wednesday. A Fatah official confirmed the agreement, according to The New York Times, while Reuters quotes a Hamas spokesman saying that "the two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome." (The same spokesman told the BBC that the two sides had reached a deal "in principle.")
A reconciliation deal would have implications for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the Palestinian quest for statehood. As Reuters points out, a deal between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas could imperil peace negotiations with Israel and U.S. aid to the Palestinians, since both Israel and the U.S. consider Hamas a terrorist organization. Reuters adds that Abbas is currently seeking international recognition of Palestine at the United Nations in September whether or not he has a peace deal with Israel, and needed to iron out differences with Hamas to present a united Palestinian front as part of his effort.
But there are also reasons to be skeptical of today's news. The BBC points out that even with an agreement, "there are many difficult issues to resolve --such as how the two factions will share security, how Gaza and the West Bank, separated by Israeli territory, will be governed, and whether the international donors will be willing to recognise Hamas." On Twitter, Yahoo's Laura Rozen says the sources she's talking to are adopting a wait-and-see attitude about whether a deal will in fact materialize.