Abbas picks longtime ally to head Palestinian government

Palestinian Authority handout, REUTERS | Senior Fatah official Mohammad Shtayyeh (left) receives his designation letter from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on March 10, 2018.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on Sunday, officials said, in a move seen as part of efforts to further isolate rival Islamist group Hamas.


Abbas asked Shtayyeh, a member of the central committee of the Palestinian president's Fatah party, to form a new government, Fatah vice president Mahmoud al-Aloul told AFP.

Official Palestinian news agency WAFA also reported the move.

Some analysts view Shtayyeh’s appointment to replace outgoing prime minister Rami Hamdallah as part of Abbas's efforts to further isolate his political rivals from Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip.

A British-educated economist and a former peace negotiator, Shtayyeh is a firm believer in a two-state solution with Israel.

Born in 1958, he is a long-term Abbas ally and a strong critic of Hamas, while Hamdallah was politically independent.

The previous government was formed during a period of improved relations and had the backing of Hamas.

But attempts to achieve a reconciliation with the Islamist movement collapsed a year ago when Hamdallah's motorcade was almost struck by a roadside bomb in Gaza.

Shtayyeh’s government is instead likely to be dominated by Fatah, though other smaller parties will be represented. Hamas is not expected to be included.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

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