Hamas and Fatah leaders began crucial talks in Mecca Wednesday on ending internal strife and forming a unity government. "We came here to agree and we have no other option but to agree," the exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal, told the inaugural ceremony in a royal palace.
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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he and his Fatah delegation had told all their supporters that "we will not leave this holy place until we have agreed on everything good, with God's blessing."
"I tell our people to expect good news, and I hope this (meeting) will not be mere words in the air," Abbas said.
PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, of Hamas added his voice to the spirit of goodwill. "We ask God to grant that this will be a new page in Palestinian-Palestinian relations."
Meanwhile, Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas were preparing for the possibility of renewed clashes with Hamas in Gaza if the crucial talks in Mecca failed to reach a breakthrough.
Abbas's security forces placed sand bags around their headquarters and were setting up dirt mounds on nearby access routes.
Cement blocks, taken from a nearby marina, were set up around Abbas's compound.
Hamas gunmen fortified positions on rooftops and in the streets.
Abbas's media adviser, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said that Fatah and Hamas were determined not to leave Mecca until an agreement was reached over the establishment of a PA unity government.
He told the Saudi Arabian newspaper U-Kaz that at The Kaaba, the holiest site for Muslims where the talks are taking place, there was "no place for disagreements."
A source in the Fatah delegation told the Saudi newspaper A-Riyad that the organization was demanding that Haniyeh not serve on a unity government.
Meanwhile, despite the informal truce and Saudi-hosted power-sharing talks, a Hamas supporter in the West Bank, Dr. Bilal Aboushi, was kidnapped by gunmen.
Aboushi is general manager of hospitals in the West Bank. In recent weeks, Fatah has kidnapped scores of Hamas sympathizers in the West Bank, in retaliation for Hamas attacks on Fatah supporters in Gaza.