Hamas Unlikely to Attend Unity Talks

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CBNNews.com - GAZA STRIP - A senior Hamas official said it's increasingly unlikely that they will send a delegation to Cairo next week for reconciliation talks with Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction.

"The atmosphere is not promising and all signs are not encouraging for Hamas to participate," exiled Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq told Reuters at a meeting in Damascus Thursday.

"We are still making contacts and leaving a chance for our demands to be met," he said.

"Egypt must put pressure on Abbas to provide the conditions to make dialogue a success," he said.

Senior officials from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP met in Damascus Thursday to decide whether to attend the Egyptian-mediated talks.

Rishq said Abbas must release the 400 Hamas prisoners being held in Fatah jails.

"These 400 prisoners are living a human tragedy equaling the brutality of the Israeli occupation forces," Rishq said. "The Cairo dialogue is dancing in the wind. It risks failure if the arrests continue," he said.

Meanwhile, Fatah said Hamas security forces arrested dozens more of its affiliates in the Gaza Strip and banned ceremonies marking the fourth anniversary of the death of PLO founder Yasser Arafat.

Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar met with Egyptian Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in Cairo to discuss his group's objections to some of Egypt's proposals.

Al-Zahar told Suleiman that Hamas would boycott the conference if the PA didn't halt its crackdown on Hamas members in the West Bank.

"The continued arrests of Hamas members jeopardizes the Egyptian efforts to end the crisis," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

"Abbas and his officials in Ramallah are committing a big crime by denying that Hamas members are not being held in their prison cells. This shows that they don't have good intentions," he said.

Senior Hamas official Yussef Farhat said he was "very pessimistic" about the Cairo conference.

"The Egyptian plan looks as if it were written by Fatah spokesman," Farhat said. "I would not be exaggerating if I said that the plan is an anti-Hamas initiative. Besides, the Egyptians are trying to impose the plan on all the Palestinian factions, ignoring our reservations and ideas," he said.

"What's outrageous is that the Egyptians are treating their plan as if it were a holy book. They have made it clear to all parties that the plan is final and that they don't want to hear any reservations," he said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news

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