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GAZA STRIP: Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh shakes up Cabinet

March 10, 2011 |  7:58 am

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Thursday he has overhauled his Cabinet, replacing seven ministers and creating two new positions, including his government's first female minister, who will oversee a new ministry for women's affairs.

The move comes as rival Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in the West Bank is also reshaping his Cabinet. Though Fayyad had expressed interest in including Hamas officials in his new government, so far there are no signs that Hamas will take part.

The two Palestinian factions split in 2007, with Hamas taking control of Gaza and the Fatah Party-dominated Palestinian Authority running the West Bank. Both reorganizations are seen as attempts by Palestinian leaders to respond to rising unrest in the Arab world by reforming their governments.

The Hamas reshuffling did not include participation from other Gaza factions or independents. All of the seven new ministers are either Hamas lawmakers or leaders. In December, Haniyeh made an offer to Gaza-based political factions to join his new government but none accepted.

In addition to being head of the government, Haniyeh is also the minister of finance, foreign affairs and education. Hamas officials described the shakeup as an “administrative change that aims to improve the performance of the Cabinet."

"This reshuffle will not harm the efforts to restore unity" with the Palestinian Authority, said Salah al-Bardwail, a Gaza-based Hamas leader.

During a government meeting Thursday, Haniyeh said his government would resign if a reconciliation deal between his movement and Fatah is achieved. Fatah officials in the West Bank rejected the reorganization, describing Hamas' government as illegitimate.

-- Ahmed Aldabba in Gaza City

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