08/24/2009, 00.00
PALESTINE
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Palestinian Authority frees 200 Hamas militants for Ramadan

Gesture of distension from the government of Abu Mazen, despite ongoing confrontation between Al-Fatah and the rival Islamist group. Meanwhile, Egypt continues mediation work towards a new round of talks between the two Palestinian sides, scheduled for September.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - At the beginning of Ramadan, the Palestinian Authority has decided to release 200 Hamas militants held in West Bank prisons, in a sign of rapprochement towards the Islamist formation.   The release of prisoners in the Muslim month of fasting is a habitual gesture, but the constant exchange accusations between Fatah and Hamas had led observers to believe that the tradition would not be observed this year.

  The two formations are in open conflict since 2007 when Hamas attacked Fatah winning the Gaza Strip by force. Small and large scale controversies have further disrupted the already fragile relations between the two movements. The most recent was during the Al-Fatah Congress, in early August, when Hamas banned 400 delegates from leaving the Gaza Strip to take part in the meeting.

Despite the obstruction of the Islamic Resistance Movement, the government headed by Abu Mazen, one of the historic leaders of Fatah, has decided to release 200 militants from the rival party. "So far we have already released 90 inmates - said a government official - and we hope to complete the release [of the rest] within the next two days."

The PA’s gesture of detente gives a little breathing space to Egypt’s mediation work .  Cairo has long sought to reach an agreement between the two movements. Al-Fatah and Hamas were to meet August 25 in Cairo for a new round of dialogue, however, it was postponed by a month because of  irreconcilable differences between the two factions. Egyptian mediators will use the month of Ramadan, from 21 August to 19 September, to try to resolve outstanding quarrels and bring the leaders of two groups negotiating table.

 
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