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Palestinian gunmen in Gaza
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Abbas and Mashaal
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Mashaal says Mecca talks must end infighting
Following weekend of clashes between Hamas and Fatah that claimed lives of 27 people, witnesses say gunmen begin withdrawing from streets. Hamas leader in televised speech: Ceasefire talks must not fail

Hamas' political leader Khaled Mashaal said on Sunday that the upcoming negotiations with rival Fatah group in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, must succeed and urged restraint among Palestinian fighters.

 

"It is forbidden to fail," Mashaal said in a televised address from the Syrian capital. "I call on all our brothers ... To restrain themselves and to remember our real battle" With Israel.

 

Mashaal is to meet moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Mecca on Tuesday for reconciliation talks hosted by Saudi King Abdullah, the highest-profile mediation effort in several weeks of fighting.

 

However, despite repeated declarations of truce during the past few days, the fire in Gaza was never halted for long. Violent clashes claimed the lives of 27 people over the last weekend.

 

The fighting continued early Sunday, with battles in nearly a dozen locations, including the headquarters of Preventive Security in Gaza City.

 

Late Saturday and early Sunday, Hamas fired mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades at a training camp of the Presidential Guard and Abbas' nearby office compound in Gaza City. Abbas was not in Gaza during the current round of fighting.

 

Two members of Abbas' Presidential Guard died Sunday, of wounds sustained in a Hamas attack on their compound Friday, hospital officials said. Also Sunday, gunmen kidnapped the nephew of Fatah strongman Mohammad Dahlan, officials said.

 

Saudi mediation 

On Saturday evening, members of Fatah's Revolutionary Council, one of the movement's decision-making bodies, met at Abbas' headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss strategy.

 

"We all agreed that Hamas has been trying for a long time to impose its control on the Gaza Strip, and Fatah needs to stand up to this policy of Hamas," said Amin Makboul, one of the group's members. However, participants disagreed over tactics and whether mediation efforts were useful, he said.

 

Abbas and Hamas' supreme leader in exile, Khaled Mashaal, are to meet in Islam's holy city of Mecca on Tuesday for reconciliation talks hosted by Saudi King Abdullah, the highest-profile mediation effort in several weeks of fighting.

 

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas also plans to attend the talks, said Ahmed Yousef, a Haniyeh aide.

 

The Palestinian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Jamal Shobaki, said the meeting will be open-ended and will focus on hammering out a platform for a national unity government and distributing Cabinet portfolios.

 


First published: 04.02.07, 19:59
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