Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas is expected to appoint Mohammad Shtayyeh, his longtime ally, as prime minister in the next few days after backing by his Fatah party, senior officials said Thursday.

Bringing in Shtayyeh as the replacement for outgoing Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah is part of Abbas’s efforts to further isolate rival party Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, say analysts.

Fatah’s central committee expressed its support for Shtayyeh taking over the post during a meeting earlier this week, the senior officials said on condition of anonymity.

The recommendation is not binding on Abbas, but he is expected to back the decision, the officials said.

Shtayyeh, 61, is a long-term Abbas ally and member of the Fatah central committee.

He would replace Hamdallah, who was politically independent.

Shtayyeh, who is also an economics professor, has been part of a number of Palestinian negotiating teams in Washington-brokered talks with Israel and is a former government minister. Hamdallah’s government submitted its resignation in late January, but it has continued on an interim basis.

Secularist Abbas remains the main decision-maker and interlocutor with the international community.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse