Efforts to end the crisis between Hamas and Fatah suffered a setback over the weekend when Egypt announced that it won’t make any changes to its plan to achieve reconciliation between the two parties.

Hamas said last week that it would accept the Egyptian initiative only if Cairo agreed to make some changes in it.

Hamas is worried that the Egyptian initiative will undermine its authority in the Gaza Strip and allow the Palestinian Authority to reassume full control over the area.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Saturday that Cairo would not succumb to Hamas pressure to amend the reconciliation plan.

He denied Hamas claims that Egypt had agreed to introduce the proposed changes.

“Egypt has no inclination, nor is it ready to allow for any amendments to this document – either in the form of direct changes made to it, or even as an appendix,” Gheit told reporters after a meeting between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and US special Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

“The present document must be signed by Hamas as it was signed by Fatah.”

The Egyptian plan calls for allowing PA security forces to return to the Gaza Strip, and holding presidential and parliamentary elections.

Sources close to Hamas claimed earlier that the PA and Egypt had agreed to make the required changes to the document.

However, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh later said that no progress has been made toward ending the crisis with Fatah. He also denied that a Hamas delegation was planning to visit Cairo soon for talks with Egyptian government officials on the subject.

Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah continued to arrest each other’s supporters over the weekend, further exacerbating tensions between the two sides.

Ahmed Assaf, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank, said that Hamas authorities were continuing to summon hundreds of Fatah supporters every day for questioning. He said that many of them were being held in Hamas prisons or placed under house arrest.

Assaf said that Hamas’s actions prove that the movement is not really interested in achieving reconciliation with Fatah, only in maintaining its grip on the Gaza Strip.

He added that Fatah accepted the Egyptian initiative despite having many reservations about it.

Hamas, on the other hand, claimed that the PA security forces had in the past few days arrested more than 50 of its supporters in the southern West Bank.

Some of the Hamas men who had been released claimed that PA policemen had forced them to wear Israel Police caps and dark glasses and taken pictures of them.

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