Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday appointed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as the next prime minister at a meeting in Abbas' Gaza office, the Palestinian news agency said.
The news agency released a picture of Abbas handing Haniyeh the official letter of appointment at the beginning of their meeting. Haniyeh, who will be the first Hamas premier, will have five weeks to form a government.
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The coalition talks between Hamas and Fatah
, originally scheduled for Tuesday, have been postponed to an unknown date, since Israel has closed Gaza crossings to all traffic.
According to Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, the IDF prevented Fatah faction leader Azzam al-Ahmad from entering Gaza. Another parliament member, Mustaffa Barghouti, was also barred from entry, Israel Radio reported.
Hamas and Fatah have reportedly begun examining the possibility of forming a Palestinian unity government.
Abbas and senior members of Hamas, including Haniyeh, said late Monday that they were taking steps to establish a coalition government with Fatah.
In an interview to the US-funded al-Hura TV channel, Abbas said, "If we have common ground, Fatah will have to join the government, in the interest of the Palestinian people."
The heads of the two factions, Mahmoud Zahar (Hamas) and Azzam al-Ahmad (Fatah) were expected to meet some time in the next few days to begin talks.