Palestinian rival factions Fatah and Hamas have signed a draft agreement for the formation of a national unity government after four years of conflict.

The reconciliation deal has been brokered by Egyptian negotiators and is expected to be signed in Egyptian capital, Cairo by 7 May. Under the agreement, presidential and legislative elections will be held next year.

Hamas will maintain control of Gaza, but as a condition for its part of the deal, insisted on the resignation of Salam Fayed, the Palestinian prime minister seen as anti-Hamas. The Palestinian Authority cabinet in the West Bank resigned on 14 February ahead of elections planned later this year (MEED 15:2:11).

The plan has been criticised in Israel, which says it will not deal with a Palestinian government that includes members of Hamas. Palestinian Authority talks with Israel are carried out by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

The two rival groups have signed two previous agreements since Hamas won legislative elections in 2006. The first was signed in Mecca in 2007, but lasted only three months before Hamas took complete control of Gaza by force. The Mediterranean strip has been blockaded by Israel ever since. By contrast, the Fatah-controlled West Bank is enjoying international aid funded investment, particularly in Ramallah.

The second deal was signed in Yemen only a year later, but was short lived, lasting barely two days.