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Mash'al meets Egypt envoy in unity push

Aug. 20, 2009 9:01 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 21, 2009 4:11 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an/Agencies – Hamas Political Bureau chief Khalid Mash’al met in Damascus on Thursday with a senior Egyptian official who is working to smooth relations with rival party Fatah.

The Egyptian envoy, General Muhammad Ibrahim, is a top aide to Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman, who is tasked with reuniting the disparate Palestinian factions.

Agence France Presse said Ibrahim wants to develop a deal for the release of political prisoners held by both the Hamas administration in Gaza and the Fatah-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Both sides have arrested the others members in the two years since Hamas took full control of Gaza after winning parliamentary elections. The issue has been a stumbling block to previous attempts to restore unity. Another round of talks is scheduled for 25 August.

Ibrahim and a delegation of other officials met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Amman on Tuesday before travelling to the West Bank for talks with key Hamas and Fatah leaders. Hamas leaders said that their meeting with Ibrahim in the city of Ramallah also addressed the political prisoner issue.

In one positive sign, the Hamas-backed de facto government in Gaza released 50 Fatah members in what they termed a “goodwill gesture” ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. The Gaza government also released 50 criminals.
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