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Middle East
Gaza abductions on eve of talks
Gunmen stormed the headquarters of Force 17, abducting six members.
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2007 13:24 GMT

Haniya told his cabinet meeting that the Mecca talks must not fail [AFP]

 


A series of tit-for-tat kidnappings of Hamas and Fatah members have taken place ahead of crucial talks due to be held between Fatah and Hamas in Mecca on Tuesday.
 
Gunmen in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun have stormed the headquarters of Force 17, which is loyal to Fatah, and abducted six members.
Fatah officials blamed Hamas for the abductions.
 
Hamas declined to say whether it was holding the men but accused Force 17 of setting up a checkpoint in Beit Hanoun and trying to detain Hamas members.

Earlier on Monday, Abdul Hakim Awad, a Fatah spokesman, said two Fatah members had been abducted by Hamas gunmen in Gaza City and Hamas said that one of its officials has been seized in Ramallah.

While both sides have released some hostages taken during the fighting, officials said before the Force 17 incident that Hamas still held nine Fatah men while 32 members of Hamas remained in Fatah custody.

'True intentions'

Khaled Meshaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister from Hamas, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, are all due to attend the talks hosted by Saudi King Abdullah.

The talks are seen as a last-ditch effort to reach a power-sharing agreement and end the factional fighting that has killed 63 Palestinians since January 25.

Negotiators have tried but failed for months to find common ground on the key issues of ties with Israel and the division of portfolios in a unity accord, in the hope of ending a boycott by the US and EU.

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Washington and Brussels consider Hamas to be a terrorist group and suspended direct financial aid to the Palestinians when the current Hamas-led cabinet took power in March.

The Hamas-led government has resisted pressure to renounce violence, recognise Israel and abide by peace deals between the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Israel.

Haniya on Monday took his lead from Meshaal in declaring that there could be no other possible outcome but success, despite months of failed meetings and collapsed ceasefire deals.

He told his cabinet meeting in Gaza City: "There may be obstacles but we confirm that we are going with true intentions to reach a Palestinian-Palestinian agreement that would end tensions and reinforce national unity.

"We have no choice but to reach an agreement."

Meshaal told a news conference in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Sunday: "We want a true partnership between Fatah and Hamas. We are in the same boat. There is no other way to strengthen national unity."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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