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Palestinian leader names adviser Mohammed Mustafa as PM

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) presents his new prime minister, Mohammed Mustafa, a long-trusted adviser on economic affairs, at the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Ramallah (-)
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (L) presents his new prime minister, Mohammed Mustafa, a long-trusted adviser on economic affairs, at the Palestinian Authority's headquarters in Ramallah (-)

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has appointed Mohammed Mustafa, a long-trusted adviser on economic affairs, as prime minister, the official Wafa news agency said on Thursday.

Mustafa's appointment comes less than three weeks after his predecessor, Mohammed Shtayyeh, resigned, citing the need for change after the Hamas attack of October 7 triggered war with Israel in Gaza.

The 69-year-old now faces the task of forming a new government for the Palestinian Authority, which has limited powers in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Since 2007, control of the Palestinian territories has been divided between Abbas's Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Mustafa, who studied at George Washington University in the United States, is an independent executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation -- dominated by the ruling Fatah movement.

He has served as deputy prime minister for economic affairs, held a board seat at the Palestine Investment Fund and worked in a number of senior positions at the World Bank.

He has also advised the Kuwaiti government and the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, the Public Investment Fund.

Mustafa was also involved in reconstruction efforts in Gaza after Israel's 2014 invasion.

- 'Right-hand man' -

Mustafa's appointment represents an attempt to bolster Palestinian institutions and "close some loopholes in the Palestinian Authority" at a time when Abbas is "under siege and under pressure" from Israel and the United States, Palestinian analyst Abdul Majeed Sweilem told AFP.

Mustafa would likely be seen as "acceptable to the Americans as he follows a liberal approach," Sweilem added.

The White House on Thursday welcomed Mustafa's appointment, calling on him to deliver "credible and far-reaching reforms" as he prepares his cabinet.

"A reformed Palestinian Authority is essential to delivering results for the Palestinian people and establishing the conditions for stability in both the West Bank and Gaza," National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Yet Khalil Shaheen, political analyst and writer, said Mustafa's closeness to Abbas limits prospects for major change.

"In the end, the man (Mustafa) remains the right-hand man of President Abbas... Abbas wants to say that he supports reforms, but they remain under his control," Shaheen said.

The current Gaza war broke out after Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

The retaliatory Israeli military offensive in Gaza has killed at least 31,341 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.

During the war, violence in the West Bank has flared to levels unseen in nearly two decades.

Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 430 Palestinians in the West Bank since the Gaza war began, according to the health ministry in Ramallah.

The United States and other powers have called for a reformed Palestinian Authority to take charge of all Palestinian territories after the end of the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has rejected postwar plans for Palestinian sovereignty.

Shortly after Shtayyeh's resignation in late February, Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah participated in talks hosted by Russia that addressed the war in Gaza and post-war plans.

Afterwards the factions said in a statement they would pursue "unity of action" in confronting Israel.

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