28 Apr 2011

Fatah, Hamas clear way for unity deal

10:46 am on 28 April 2011

Representatives of the rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas have reached an initial agreement in talks aimed at resolving their long-standing differences.

The two sides, meeting in Cairo, are said to have agreed to clear the way for an interim unity government and set a date for a Palestinian general election.

Fatah party governs the West Bank, under the Palestinian Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas governs Gaza.

The BBC reports that in recent years relations between the two factions have been nothing short of poisonous. Hamas has consistently refused to recognise the legitimacy and authority of Mr Abbas, because it says his term of office expired more than a year ago.

Fatah loyalists have often been unable to hide their hatred of fundamentalist hard-liners in Hamas who took control of Gaza in 2007.

But Palestinian unity is a goal cherished by most people in Gaza and the West Bank, who say that the four-year split has seriously undermined and harmed chances of the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Israel, US respond

Israel's immediate reaction to the latest news has been to say that the Palestinian Authority cannot have peace with both Hamas and Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says: "I hope the Palestinian Authority will make the right choice - peace with Israel."

Hamas has carried out bombings and rocket attacks against Israel for years and does not recognise its right to exist.

The United States responded to the news by saying that any Palestinian unity government would have to renounce violence and recognise Israel.