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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Facing growing international isolation, the Hamas rulers of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday called for a "national dialogue" with their vanquished Fatah foes.
"We are shocked and surprised by the voices forbidding discussions with us, while they enter discussions with Israel," Khalil al-Haya, a prominent Hamas lawmaker, said at a news conference. "We are still prepared for a brotherly serious and responsible national dialogue."
The statement followed a decision made by Fatah's top leadership body to cut off all contacts with Hamas, a participant said. The decision was made in a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, said Azzam al-Ahmed.
"The Fatah Central Committee decided today not to conduct any kind of contact, dialogue or meetings with Hamas unless it ends its military coup in Gaza and restores the situation to normal," al-Ahmed said. "Fatah will have no relationship with Hamas on any level."
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Meanwhile, Environment Minister Gideon Ezra said that Israel should release Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, who is currently serving consecutive life sentences for the murder of Israeli citizens in terror attacks.
Ezra told Israel Radio that since the Oslo Accords were signed, Israel had freed a number of Palestinian prisoners responsible for terror attacks who later joined the moderate camp of the Palestinian leadership.
Barghouti's release has been one of the sticking points in negotiations for the release of captive IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit. In April, Hamas's Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal confirmed that Barghouti was included on the list of Palestinian prisoners Schalit's captors demanded be set free in exchange for the soldier.
According to Ezra, a former public security minister, Israel needed to bolster Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials who were capable of leading the Palestinian public, and not those who "failed" in the Gaza Strip.
In addition, Ezra said, if Abbas believed that refugees from Gaza ought to be allowed to travel to the West Bank through Israel, Israel should help them do so.