Palestinian rivals hold unity talks

President Abbas meets Hamas officials following calls by Palestinians for factions to end political split.

    Abbas has agreed to visit the Gaza Strip at the invitation of Hamas [EPA]

    Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, has held talks with officials from the rival Hamas group for the first time in about a year.

    The two-hour talks on Saturday focused on a long-elusive reconciliation between the two groups which have been split since Hamas expelled Abbas' forces from the Gaza Strip in 2007.

    Aziz Dweik, the Hamas head of the Palestinian legislature, told Al Jazeera that the discussions had been frank and positive.

    "We discussed our concerns and as always with open minds and hearts," he said.

    Azzam al-Ahmad, president of Fatah's parliamentary bloc, said that the meeting "was indeed positive in spite of some negative statements from the brothers in Hamas about what the president announced".

    He did not elaborate.

    Calls for unity

    Years of mediation have failed to reconcile the two Palestinian factions, complicating efforts to achieve a Palestinian state through a peace deal with Israel.

    But tens of thousands of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank last week to demand that the two factions end their long-running rivalry.

    Following the demonstrations Abbas accepted a Hamas invitation to go to Gaza, saying he was prepared to make the trip in an attempt to "end the division and form a government of independent national figures".

    Dweik, who had previously expressed his intention to accompany Abbas to Gaza, said he doubted the Israelis would grant him a permit.

    Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, is trying to form a new government ahead of the elections, which officials want to hold by September at the latest.

    Also on Saturday, Palestinian fighters in Gaza fired two rockets into Israel, damaging a house, officials said.

    There were also reports of an explosion at a factory in the Strip, but no injuries reported in either incident.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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