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Abbas pledges to talk unity with Hamas
Associated Press
The Boston Globe
March 17, 2011

RAMALLAH, West Bank The Palestinian president yesterday offered to go to the Gaza Strip for unity talks with his Hamas rivals, a day after Israel intercepted an arms shipment it said was sent by Iran to the Islamic militant group.

This Mahmoud Abbass gesture to Hamas suggests he has given up on reaching peace with Israel and will instead seek internal reconciliation at the risk of jeopardizing relations with the West. The United States, Israel, and the European Union consider Hamas a terror group.

Abbas has not visited Gaza since Hamas expelled his forces in a five-day civil war in 2007. Since then, his Western-backed Palestinian Authority has ruled only the West Bank.

Even with the best of intentions, it will be difficult for the sides to overcome their vast differences. Past reconciliation efforts have failed, with neither side eager to relinquish the power it has, and the bad blood from their 2007 violence remains.

Following parallel rallies in Gaza and the West Bank urging the rival Palestinian leaderships to reunite, Gazas Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, invited Abbas to come try to mend ties. With peace talks with Israel at a standstill and prodemocracy uprisings taking place across the Middle East, Abbas complied.

Abbass unity plan includes parliamentary and presidential elections within six months. Abbas said yesterday he would not seek reelection in that vote.

Despite the Hamas welcome to Abbas, its police forces lunged into a crowd of activists yesterday and beat them with sticks. The previous day, Hamas police beat demonstrators, punched reporters, and seized cellphones.

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