Rival Palestinian factions to meet in Gaza

Photo: Rival Palestinian factions to meet in Gaza / Arab World

A delegation sent by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is set to arrive in the Gaza Strip for a new round of Palestinian reconciliation talks with rival political faction Hamas, Al Jazeera reported.

The West Bank delegation is expected to arrive on Tuesday afternoon and will have its first meeting with Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' Gaza-based prime minister.

Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, told Al Jazeera that the five-member delegation includes officials from Abbas' Fatah party, leftist factions in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Palestinian businessman Munib al-Masri.

Barghouti said Israel tried to block the delegation at Erez crossing, on Gaza's northern border with Israel, but it allowed the delegates through "after [they] threatened... to travel through Egypt".

Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political factions, have been divided since factional fighting broke out after Hamas' victory in Palestinian legislative council elections in 2006.

A year later, Hamas took control of the besieged Gaza Strip, while the US-backed Palestinian Authority rules over parts of the occupied West Bank.

Barghouti said the discussions on Tuesday would focus on implementing earlier reconciliation agreements brokered by Egypt and Qatar in 2011 and 2012. The Doha Agreement stipulated that presidential and legislative elections be held under the direction of Abbas.

"In brief, there must be no selectivity in implementing the agreements we signed," Yahia Moussa, a Gaza-based Hamas official, told Al Jazeera. "All the files should be tackled side-by-side."

On Tuesday, Egypt allowed a senior Hamas official, Moussa Abu Marzouk, into Gaza through Rafah crossing to take part in the discussions. Hamas also released 10 Fatah prisoners before the meeting as a goodwill gesture.

Abu Thaer, one of the released Fatah prisoners, said: "This is a good step to achieve reconciliation. We hope there will be more steps... as there are still other Fatah members in Hamas jails for more than seven years."

The latest round of talks comes as the two factions are under outside pressure. The PA is dealing with the looming breakdown of US-sponsored peace negotiations with Israel, while Hamas is attempting to ease a severe economic crisis in Gaza, largely due to a breakdown in relations with neighbouring Egypt.

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