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Head of Fatah reconciliation team confirms visit to Gaza

Jan. 9, 2014 9:52 A.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2014 9:38 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The head of Fatah's reconciliation team told Ma'an Thursday that he would visit the Gaza Strip to meet with Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the coming days.

PLO central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad said that at the request of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, he had phoned Haniyeh to arrange the visit.

Al-Ahmad said Fatah proposed that the date for legislative and presidential elections be set for six months from now, and Haniyeh requested time for discussion among Hamas leaders.

Fatah does not feel the need to hold more reconciliation talks, and is ready to complete the deal immediately, al-Ahmad added.

On Wednesday, a Fatah spokesman told Ma'an that al-Ahmad proposed a unity government plan to Haniyeh, and that the Gaza PM said he needed time to discuss the plan with fellow leaders.

The proposal came as Hamas released seven Fatah prisoners who were in Gaza jails for "security reasons."

Gaza Interior Ministry spokesman Ibrahim Salah said he hoped Fatah would make a similar gesture in the West Bank.

But al-Ahmad told Ma'an Thursday that prison sentences of those released were already close to complete, and that the PA would not be releasing Hamas prisoners at this time.

The division between the two Palestinian factions began in 2006, when Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections.

In the following year, clashes erupted between Fatah and Hamas, leaving Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of parts of the occupied West Bank.

The groups have made failed attempts at national reconciliation for years, most recently in 2012, when they signed two agreements -- one in Cairo and a subsequent one in Doha -- which have as of yet been entirely unimplemented.
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