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Hamas to hold Nablus festival as Mashaal urges unity

Dec. 10, 2012 9:28 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 12, 2012 3:35 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority has authorized a Hamas festival to be held in Nablus in the northern West Bank, a PA security services spokesman said Monday.

Adnan Dmeiri told Ma'an the two-day Hamas rally would begin Thursday. He said Hamas events were never banned in the West Bank but that the party had never requested permission to hold a festival.

"Any political faction is allowed to express its opinion within the framework of the law and will not be prevented to hold any activities," Dmeiri said.

Fatah central committee member Jamal Muhassem told Ma'an his party would participate in the festival if invited by Hamas.

Hamas launched celebrations for its 25th anniversary in Gaza on Saturday.

Khalil Assaf, who heads a Palestinian forum of independent figures, said Monday that Hamas had already approved a Fatah festival in Gaza commemorating its 48th anniversary.

Fatah in Gaza announced on Sunday it would organize a celebration under the banner "statehood and victory."

'West Bank and Gaza need each other'

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal ended his first visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday with a pledge his movement would strive to heal its rift with Fatah.

His comments reinforced promises he and President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah, made to each other in a telephone conversation a month ago, to forge ahead with a stalled unity deal opposed by Israel.

"I entered Gaza carrying a great love for it and I exit with a greater love in my heart," the 56-year-old Hamas leader, who lives in exile, said before crossing back to Egypt from Gaza.

"From Gaza I have stressed the need for reconciliation, and I do so again. Gaza and the West Bank are two dear parts of the greater Palestinian homeland, and they need each other."

Hamas and Fatah have tried, often with little enthusiasm, to patch up their differences. Mashaal has vowed to push for the unity which is longed for by ordinary Palestinians.

The parties are divided over Abbas' peacemaking efforts with Israel, which Hamas opposes. But the talks with Israel have been frozen for two years, making it easier to sidestep that issue in order to reconcile.

Both parties also now hope to boost ties on the heels of an eight-day war with Israel last month that ended with a truce Hamas saw as a victory, and a Fatah-led initiative at the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing Palestinian statehood.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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