Hamas wants unity coalition, Rafah crossing open for weekend

Other News Materials 20 September 2008 19:23 (UTC +04:00)

The Islamic movement Hamas called for a national unity government with the rival Fatah and other Palestinian organizations on Saturday, indicating it is opposed to the idea of a technocrat cabinet suggested by other Palestinian factions and Egypt, reported dpa.

"Hamas favours a national coalition that can defend the Palestinian people and their rights," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoom in Gaza.

The proposal for a government of technocrats without Hamas and Fatah representatives - the two largest Palestinian groups - had been made during a series of talks between Egypt and delegates of Palestinian factions that oppose the feud between Hamas and Fatah.

Hamas' comments on Saturday came only days ahead before a scheduled meeting between US President George W Bush and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which the two leaders are to discuss the next moves in the peace process.

Further talks on the Egyptian proposal are due later this month in Cairo between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement. According to the Egyptian proposal, the interim government should prepare new elections and decide on a restructuring of Palestinian security forces.

Last year, Hamas fought pro-Abbas forces and forcibly seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. Abbas consolidated Palestinian Authority (PA) rule in West Bank while Hamas tightened its grip on the Gaza Strip.

Abbas appointed a western-backed administration based in the West Bank after he withdrew his Fatah movement from a Hamas-led coalition in response to Hamas' takeover in Gaza. The Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has since become politically separated from the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Egypt on Saturday allowed the passage of Mecca pilgrims and a restricted number of other travellers for two days from the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing which it has kept closed since Hamas took control of the strip.

About 600 registered pilgrims were allowed to pass alongside patients, students as well as Arab and foreign nationals, Hamas said.

In other events, Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian near the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

The Israeli army said the victim, identified by Palestinian sources as Suhaib Saleh, 14, from the village of Assira near Nablus, attempted to throw a firebomb at them when they opened fire, killing him instantly, according to Israel radio.