For the first time since he announced his intention to call early parliamentary and presidential elections, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he was prepared to resume talks with Hamas over the formation of a Palestinian unity government. Abbas's statement is seen as an attempt to appease Hamas in the wake of the armed clashes that erupted in the Gaza Strip following his announcement last Saturday that he will call new elections.
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"We are prepared to work toward the formation of a unity government that will lift the international sanctions and end the isolation of the Palestinians," Abbas told reporters in Ramallah. "We also want a government that will recognize the Arab peace initiatives and all United Nations resolutions."
In response, Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said the unity government option was still on the table. "Despite the turmoil and unrest in the Palestinian arena, there is still room for resuming the talks over the unity government," he said. "All we need now is a positive atmosphere to return to the negotiating table."
Reiterating Hamas's fierce opposition to holding new elections, Hamad said his movement, along with several other Palestinian groups, would boycott the vote. He condemned Abbas's decision as an "uncalculated risk" and urged him to backtrack.
Fatah legislator Nabil Amr, who is a top adviser to Abbas, also did not rule out the possibility that the unity government talks would be resumed.
"The ball is always in the court of Hamas," Amr told the Bethlehem-based Maan news agency. He pointed out, however, that there were still no signs that Hamas was prepared to soften its position regarding the unity government.
At a rally in the center of Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the latest cycle of violence between Hamas and Fatah and called on both sides to resume talks over the establishment of a unity government.
Meanwhile, a cease-fire agreement that was announced late Tuesday under the auspices of Egyptian mediators was holding Wednesday as Hamas and Fatah gunmen evacuated the streets.
Shortly after the cease-fire went into effect, two Fatah activists from the Daghmash clan were killed in a gun battle with members of Hamas's "Executive Force" in Gaza City.
Another 11 people were injured. Representatives of the Daghmash clan accused the Hamas militiamen of cold bloodedly murdering their sons.