GAZA CITY (AFP) – The Islamist Hamas movement said on Thursday that it was ready to resume reconciliation talks if Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas frees more than 600 of its activists being held in the West Bank.
“The number of prisoners held by Abbas’s security services in the West Bank now totals 616. What is happening in the West Bank is an attempt to eliminate Hamas,” a senior official from the movement, Salah al-Bardawil, told a Gaza City news conference.
“If these political prisoners are freed tomorrow, the Hamas delegation will return to Cairo within the hour to take part in dialogue.”
Palestinian factions had been due to meet in the Egyptian capital on Monday in a bid to heal the rift between Hamas and Abbas’s secular Fatah movement triggered by the Islamists’ violent seizure of power in Gaza last year.
But the talks were called off after Hamas announced a boycott in protest at the rounding up of its members in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Abbas’s security forces still hold sway.
The Western-backed Palestinian president insists that no prisoner is being held for his or her political opinions and that the security forces only detain people found with unlicensed weapons or involved in other illegal activities.
Bardawil said that next week Hamas would hold a series of events “in solidarity with the political prisoners.”