PA to Release Hamas Prisoners in ‘Goodwill Gesture’

November 25, 2012  

The Palestinian Authority will release Hamas-affiliated detainees as a goodwill gesture to boost reconciliation efforts, a PLO official said Sunday, after Hamas announced similar measures earlier.

Nabil Shaath told the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency that preparations will begin in the coming days to release dozens of Hamas prisoners held for political reasons, adding that the PA has already recently released a large number of Hamas-affiliated detainees.

Hamas representatives will also begin to participate in leadership meetings in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria, including sessions of the executive committee of the PLO, Shaath added.

“They are part of the Palestinian people, and they will be consulted in political issues,” he told Ma’an.

Further reconciliation talks are expected in Cairo after the PA’s 29 UN bid on November 29, to build a unity government and prepare for elections, reported Ma’an.

All unresolved issues related to public sector employees will also be discussed, and factions will try to build a “political map for the future”, Shaath said.

The Fatah leader also revealed that PA Chairman Abbas will visit Gaza, although no date has been arranged yet.

Earlier Sunday, Hamas indicated that they would free prisoners affiliated to Fatah, giving further momentum to reconciliation efforts that began during Israel’s counterterrorism operation in Gaza, Pillar of Defense.

Leaders of the two factions, once united but later divided, said last week they have decided to end infighting in a show of solidarity of Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

“From here, we announce with other (factional) leaders, that we are ending the division,” senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told a crowd of about 1,000 who gathered for a demonstration in Ramallah, the headquarters of Abbas and located five miles north of Jerusalem.

Among those present at the rally were top members of Hamas’ leadership in Judea and Samaria as well as senior officials from its smaller rival Islamic Jihad.

Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said on Sunday the Hamas government in Gaza would grant an amnesty to all suspects and prisoners related to its conflict with Fatah in 2006.

Hamas and Fatah have had a longtime row since Hamas overthrew Fatah in Gaza in a violent and bloody coup in 2007. The parties attempted to resolve the feud between them when they signed a reconciliation deal in May of 2011. The deal has repeatedly faltered as the parties spar over its implementation.

A Hamas parliamentarian recently declared that Abbas is persona non grata in Gaza.

The parliamentarian, Yahya Moussa said that he opposes a visit by Abbas to Gaza, because Abbas wants to take advantage of such a visit to cover for his recent statements and strengthen his legitimacy.

He was referring to Abbas’s interview with Israeli television in which he hinted that he had given up on the “right of return” when he said that he had no intention of trying to regain his childhood home in the northern town of Tzfat (Safed) in Galilee, which was liberated by Israel in 1948.

Abbas also reiterated his acceptance of the Israeli state within the 1949 Armistice borders that preceded its defeat of combined Arab armies in the 1967 Six Day war.

The comments caused an outrage among Gaza’s Hamas rulers, who said the PA Chairman had “affected” the right of return.

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