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Fatah cautiously welcomes Hamas pledge for talks, Gaza elections

Hamas has announced it has accepted reconciliation demands by rival Fatah. The rift between the factions has left the Palestinians divided between two authorities for a decade. Fatah has welcomed the move, with caution.

In a statement issued overnight to Sunday, Hamas said it would dissolve a disputed administrative body in the Gaza Strip which was seen as a rival government to the administration of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

"Hamas invites the consensus government to come to Gaza to practice its mission and carry out its duties in the Gaza Strip immediately, and it accepts holding the general elections," the statement said.

According to the statement, Hamas made the move following reconciliation efforts mediated by Egypt. A team led by Hamas chief Ismail Haniyehhas been in Cairo for about a week, while a delegation from Abbas' Fatah movement arrived in the Egyptian capital days ago. Hamas said it was ready to meet in Cairo with Fatah and other factions to discuss a unity government.

Later Sunday, a Fatah official said the news out of Cairo was encouraging, but they were proceeding with caution.

"We want to see an end to the division, but we don't want to rush with our reaction to this news. There are too many details which we have to deal with based on previous agreements," Mahmoud Aloul, a Fatah committee member and deputy to Abbas, told Voice of Palestine radio.

Decade-long rift

Palestinians have been divided between two rival governments since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip, driving out Fatah forces. That meant the Palestinian Authority had control only of autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

The two million residents of the Gaza Strip are facing deteriorating humanitarian conditions including a lack of clean water and a severe electricity crisis. The territory has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt, isolated internationally and had several wars with Israel.

Read more: Blackout in Gaza

Read more: EU's top court keeps Hamas on terror list

It was unclear however whether the steps would succeed in ending the deep division between Fatah and Hamas. Any reconciliation deal would face substantial obstacles, such as whether Hamas is ready to place its security forces under the control of Abbas.

Abbas had sought to squeeze Hamas by reducing electricity payments for the Gaza Strip and cutting salaries for civil servants there.

se/jil (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)

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