GAZA: The Islamist Palestinian group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, freed some 50 prisoners of the rival Fatah movement of President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday, calling it a gesture for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Periodic prisoner releases are a key negotiating tool used by both groups in their on-off effort to resolve the acrimonious schism that has fractured the foundations of the Palestinian independence movement.
Fatah says at least 300 of its members were detained in Gaza by Hamas. The Islamist group says nearly 900 of its members are held in jails in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Fatah dominates.
Hamas announced the release six days before the planned resumption of Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation talks with Fatah. The Islamist group was likely to expect Fatah to match its gesture.
Ramadan is due to begin on Friday, with Muslims fasting from dawn until sunset.
One of the Fatah men set free, Nael Shaath, said he had been held for 80 days in a village east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.
“I hope there will be national unity and all such problems get resolved,” he said. – Reuters
on Aug. 20, 2009 at 9:35 PM