Abbas and Meshaal meet in Cairo

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Updated 10 January 2013
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Abbas and Meshaal meet in Cairo

CAIRO: Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas exiled chief Khaled Meshaal met yesterday in Cairo over a stalled reconciliation deal and separately held talks with Egypt’s Muhammad Mursi, officials said.
The Egyptian president first met with Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, and then with Meshaal, who heads the Hamas movement which rules Gaza, officials said.
The two Palestinians then sat down together to discuss the implementation of a unity agreement reached in April 2011 which was aimed at ending years of infighting between their rival factions.
Years of bitter rivalry between the two Palestinian national movements exploded into violence in June 2007 when Hamas forces seized control of Gaza a year after they won a landslide victory in Parliamentary elections.
Under Egyptian mediation, the two factions inked a unity agreement in May 2011, but the main provisions of that deal have yet to be implemented.
Earlier, Fatah’s lead negotiator Azzam Al-Ahmed told AFP that Abbas would discuss with Mursi his party’s relations with Egypt, which has boosted support for Gaza since the Islamist was elected president in June, as well as Arab support for Abbas in stalled peace talks with Israel.
Abbas and Meshaal would then discuss “ways to revive efforts at reconciliation,” he said.
Meshaal met Abbas in Cairo in February 2012, but there has been little progress towards ending the crippling divide between their movements.
And even as the two met again yesterday, there was no let up in the recriminations.
“Egypt’s invitation does not necessarily mean this meeting will lead to a serious start of implementing” the agreement, said Yousef Rizq, political adviser to Hamas’s prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniya. He stressed that all the provisions in the agreement should go into effect simultaneously.
But Ahmed said Abbas wanted the election committee to resume its work, “and after the committee ends its work, and there is a consensus government, then there will be elections.”
Egyptian officials have said that a reconciliation agreement that would allow Hamas representation in the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, historically headed by Fatah, and the formation of a unity government, are opposed by Washington.
The United States, along with other Western countries and Israel, say Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel.
Hamas is officially sworn to Israel’s destruction but says it could accept a Palestinian state on the basis of the lines which existed before the 1967 Six Day War during which the Jewish state captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.


New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

Updated 12 min 43 sec ago
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New Palestinian deaths bring toll from Israel clashes to 40

GAZA CITY: Two Palestinians wounded in clashes with Israel were pronounced dead Monday, a Gaza official said, bringing the toll from Israeli fire since March 30 to 40.
A spokesman for the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry named the latest fatalities as Tahrir Wahba, 18, and Abdullah Shamali, 20.
Wahba, who was deaf, was shot in the head in a clash east of Khan Yunis on April 6, and Shamali died of “bullet wounds to his belly” sustained on Friday, said spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.
Most of the 40 Palestinians killed by Israel since the start of “March of Return” protests on March 30 were shot by snipers on the border, while a few others were killed by Israeli artillery or air strikes.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians in the coastal enclave, wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, have gathered at the border on consecutive Fridays to call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Some protesters have launched stones or burning tires at Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have responded with live ammunition, wounding hundreds in addition to those killed.
The Israeli army says its troops only opened fire in self-defense or to stop protesters attempting to breach the barrier separating the territory from Israel.
More than 440 demonstrators suffered bullet wounds or gas inhalation on Friday, rescuers said.
Israel has drawn harsh criticism from rights groups along with calls for investigations by the United Nations or the European Union.
Israel has for more than a decade imposed a crippling blockade on Gaza, fighting three wars with Hamas since 2008.
Also on Monday, Hamas’s military wing said one of its men died in an explosion.
It said in a statement that Mohammed Al-Maqadma, 55, was killed by an “explosive projectile” fired by an unnamed group which it described as hostile to Hamas.
It did not elaborate further.
The Gaza health ministry said a child was wounded in the same blast, in the northern part of the strip.