DOHA - Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said on Tuesday the Islamist group was close to mending rifts with rival President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization, but vowed resistance against Israel will continue.
Speaking at a gathering in Doha to mark "Nakba", the annual commemoration of what Palestinians term the catastrophe of their displacement when Israel was founded, Mashaal said Hamas has made sacrifices for the reconciliation to take place.
"We have turned the page on this division... Hamas has already made sacrifices and this was necessary to be closer with our brothers, but with the invader we will not make any compromises," he said.
Hamas and the PLO announced a unity pact on April 23 after a long line of failed efforts to reconcile seven years of bickering. It envisions a unity government within five weeks and national elections six months later.
Israel said after the announcement that Abbas had chosen Hamas over peace and cancelled a session of US-brokered talks with the Palestinians that had been scheduled for Wednesday night in Jerusalem.
A source close to Hamas said details of the pact are currently being finalized between the two groups in Doha.
Earlier this month, Abbas was in Doha for what was described as a personal visit. However, he met with Mashaal and the two held "positive" discussions, according to local media reports in Qatar.
This week Palestinian politician Jibril Rajoub, who has close ties with Abbas, was in Doha and also met Mashaal, a source familiar with the matter said.
"I'm aware that many real challenges lay ahead. We can overcome them," said Mashaal.
Since the unity pact was signed on April 23, Hamas members have complained of arrests in the West Bank by security services loyal to Abbas. Mashaal said he urged the Palestinian Authority to stop the arrests.
In 2007, Hamas seized control of Gaza, ousting forces loyal to Abbas, a year after it swept parliamentary elections.
Along with the United States and the European Union, Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organization and says Abbas' efforts to unify with the group show he is not serious about extending the troubled negotiations.
However, Mashaal views the reconciliation as "opening new options" for attaining the Palestinians' common goals.
"The reconciliation does not mean an end to our resistance against the invaders, resistance will continue as long as the occupation exists."