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Mashaal applauds Hamas for facilitating Fatah festival

Jan. 5, 2013 11:32 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 11:55 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Hamas chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal and deputy chief Mousa Abu Marzouq praised the Gaza government on Saturday for their organization of Fatah's anniversary celebrations.

The Hamas leaders made the comments during a phone call with Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh, describing the movement's position to allow the festival as "expressing a great national position."

Fatah officials said that hundreds of thousands of people attended the celebrations in Gaza City's al-Saraya square on Friday, which saw a recorded speech by Fatah leader president Abbas played to the crowds.

"Soon we will achieve unity and end the occupation, raising the Palestinian flag over Al-Aqsa mosque and Jerusalem," Abbas said.

Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh called Abbas on Friday to congratulate him on the occasion of Fatah's 48th anniversary.

Abbas in turn thanked the Gaza premier for allowing his Fatah movement to celebrate its 48th anniversary in Gaza, expressing willingness to begin a new phase of cooperation and good relations.

The celebrations mark the first time that Hamas has allowed Fatah to hold such events since it took power in 2007, raising hopes of improving relations between both political factions.

"The success of the rally is a success for Fatah, and for Hamas too," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Friday.

"The positive atmosphere is a step on the way to regain national unity."

An Egyptian official told Reuters that Cairo was preparing to invite the factions for new negotiations within two weeks, with the country having already played a crucial role in bringing both sides together in 2011.

The Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas has repeatedly stalled, but Israel's eight-day war on the Gaza Strip, which ended on Nov. 21, gave political impetus to ending the division.

Reuters contributed to this report
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