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Egypt-based Hamas official in Gaza to meet PLO rivals

By AFP - Apr 21,2014 - Last updated at Apr 21,2014

GAZA CITY — A senior Cairo-based Hamas official crossed Monday from Egypt into the Gaza Strip ahead of a new attempt to reconcile the Islamist movement and its Palestine Liberation Organisation rivals.

Musa Abu Marzouk, head of external affairs in the movement’s political office, was seen entering the Hamas-ruled coastal strip through the Rafah frontier crossing.

A delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and dominated by his Fateh movement, is to go to Gaza from the West Bank on Tuesday for talks with Hamas, members said.

Independent Palestinian MP Mustafa Barghuthi told AFP that his fellow delegates were Fateh’s Azzam Al Ahmad, Bassam Al Salhi of the socialist Palestine People’s Party, businessman Munib Al Masri and Arab Palestinian Front leader Jamil Shehadeh.

Barghuthi said the sides would discuss “forming a national consensus government and holding elections”, among other issues.

Hamas’ Gaza interior ministry said 10 Fateh members imprisoned for “breaches of public order” were freed on Monday “as a goodwill gesture to support national reconciliation efforts”.

Immediately upon his arrival, Abu Marzouk met with Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the premier’s office said.

Longtime tensions between Hamas and Fateh boiled over in a week of fighting in 2007 that left the Islamist movement in control of Gaza and effectively divided the Palestinian territories into two.

The two sides have made repeated attempts to heal the rift, including an Egyptian-brokered deal in 2011 in which they agreed to make way for an interim government of independents to organise fresh elections throughout the territories.

The agreement has never been implemented.

Hamas’ fortunes have slipped since July 2013 when the Egyptian army deposed the movement’s ally, president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, although Abu Marzuq is still based in Cairo.

The Hamas leadership in exile left its Damascus headquarters last year, with its political chief Khaled Mishaal moving to Qatar.

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