One eve of Gaza reconciliation, Hamas frees Fatah men

On Tuesday, the Palestinian cabinet held its annual meeting chaired by Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah during which it addressed his visit to Gaza last week.

On Wednesday, Azzam al-Ahmad, the official leading the Fatah faction's delegation, told the Pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat that "Egypt has made unprecedented efforts towards the reconciliation...due to the changing regional and worldwide political stances".

Both sides voiced optimism as talks began in the Egyptian capital, with a top Hamas representative saying he was "full of hope" for reconciliation.

"Unity and national reconciliation among all our Palestinian people is our strategic option to move forwards".

An emailed statement, issued after ten hours of dialogue held at the Egyptian Security Intelligence Headquarters in Cairo between the leaders of the two rival groups, said the dialogue was dominated by a positive atmosphere.

Security will be the main focus of the talks, including the possible deployment of 3,000 Fatah security officers who would join a Gaza police force over the course of a year, restoring much of Abbas' influence in Gaza and further loosening Hamas' grip. It also held its first meeting there since 2015. The Egyptian delegation in Gaza would also help facilitate movement through the Rafah border crossing, as well as help to solve the electricity and water crises now plaguing the Strip.

"We urge President (Mahmoud Abbas) to order the release of all political prisoners in the West Bank", Abu Armana said, a reference to members of Hamas, a group considered by Western countries that back Abbas to be a terrorist organisation. He stressed that the decision of peace and war and the form of resistance to which everyone is committed is a national decision rather than a sectarian one.

Meanwhile, Hamas Politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh told Egyptian television a day later that while his party would not cede control of its weapons, it would be prepared to make joint decisions with Fatah about when and how to use them.

Now mediators in Egypt are engaged in yet another attempt to facilitate true power sharing between the two in Gaza and the West Bank.

Newly appointed Hamas deputy leader Salah al-Aruri, who in recent years served as the terror group's head of West Bank operations, and the organization's Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar are leading the Hamas delegation, a spokesman said.

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