Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal are scheduled to meet in Cairo on Friday in a renewed bid to form a Palestinian unity government.

Izat al-Risheq, a senior Hamas official, announced that Abbas and Mashaal would also meet with leaders of various PLO groups to discuss holding elections for their parliament-in-exile, the Palestine National Council.

Risheq said Hamas and Fatah representatives would hold additional talks in Cairo early next week to discuss the formation of a unity government that would prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Mashaal told the BBC on Thursday that he was holding discussions with Abbas on the formation of a unity government. He said the discussions were also focused on holding long –overdue presidential and parliamentary elections.

“We are consulting about forming a government of national accord,” Mashaal said. “Preparations for presidential, parliamentary and executive council elections are under way.”

Yet as Fatah and Hamas continue to talk about ending their differences, the PA security forces in the West Bank pursued their crackdown on supporters of the Islamist movement.

Sources close to Hamas said that over the past 48 hours, PA security forces had arrested nine Hamas supporters in Nablus, Kalkilya, Ramallah and Tulkarm.

Most of those arrested had been released from Israeli prisons in recent weeks, sources said.

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