Abbas, Mashaal meet as unity deal gets off to a shaky start

Fatah says party is opposed to political arrests, but Hamas says PA security forces in the West Bank are continuing to arrest Hamas supporters.

PA President Abbas with Hamas leader Khaled  Mashaal 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS/Ho New)
PA President Abbas with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ho New)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal agreed on Tuesday to continue their efforts to implement the recent “reconciliation” agreement between their two parties, meeting twice within 48 hours.
On Tuesday, the two met together with the Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, and briefed him on the latests developments surrounding the deal. The two thanked the emir for his continued support for the Palestinians.
The discussions between Abbas and Mashaal focused on the formation of a Palestinian unity government that would consist of Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas.
Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed is expected to travel to the Gaza Strip soon for more talks with Hamas leaders on the formation of the government.
In a related development, a senior Hamas official announced that his movement would hand back Abbas’s house in the Gaza Strip. Iyad al-Bazam, spokesman for the Hamasrun Interior Ministry, told the Ma’an news agency that there was no problem “handing back Abbas’s house that is currently being guarded by the Hamas security forces in the Gaza Strip.”
In the context of efforts to pave the way for the implementation of the agreement, the Hamas government on Monday released six Fatah detainees.
The Hamas government lifted a ban on the distribution of the Palestinian daily Al-Quds in the Gaza Strip. The Jerusalem-based newspaper, which is affiliated with the PA , had been banned by the Hamas government.
Abbas reciprocated by issuing an order allowing the distribution of all Gaza Strip newspapers in the West Bank.
Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf said on Tuesday that his faction was determined to achieve “national unity.”
He said that Fatah was prepared to pay “any price” to achieve this goal. Fatah has rejected outside pressure to refrain from achieving unity with Hamas, he added.
Assaf welcomed the release of the six Fatah detainees, saying this move would facilitate the implementation of the “reconciliation” pact. He said that Fatah was opposed to political arrests.
Meanwhile, Hamas sources announced that the PA security forces in the West Bank were continuing to arrest supporters of the Islamist movement despite the recent rapprochement between the two parties.
The sources said that in the town of Yatta, near Hebron, the PA arrested more than 40 Hamas supporters in the past few days. The arrests came after local residents attacked a PA security installation in the town.
Wasfi Qabaha, a senior Hamas representative in the West Bank, condemned the continued PA security crackdown and warned that it could hinder efforts to end the discord between Fatah and Hamas. He said that PA security forces had summoned several Hamas supporters for interrogation despite the unity agreement.