A Hamas activist was killed and three others were wounded in exchanges of fire with Fatah security forces in Gaza on Tuesday as talks between the leaders of the rival Palestinian factions commenced in Saudi Arabia.
During their meeting with King Abdullah in Mecca, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that Hamas and Fatah are deternined to reach an agreement on the formation of a national unity government.
The leaders are expected to resolve a bloody standoff on the streets of the Gaza Strip, which claimed the lives of at least 27 Palestinians last weekend.
Gun battles were reported near a complex housing Palestinian security headquarters, in close proximity to Abbas’ office.
On Tuesday evening several men were kidnapped from both sides, eyewitnesses said. The latest violent clashes threaten to derail talks between the two rival factions.
Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh (L) and Mashaal in Mecca (photo: AFP)
Israel and the United States do not want Abbas to agree to a unity government that stops short of recognizing the Jewish state, renouncing violence in the historic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and abiding by interim peace deals.
Senior Abbas aide Azzam al-Ahmad said recently that the talks aim to persuade Hamas to accept the program of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which would involve an implicit Hamas recognition of Israel that could end the aid blockade.
"This won't contradict the requirements for lifting the siege ... I'm sure once Hamas honors PLO agreements the Quartet will not be asking Hamas to recognize Israel any more," he said, referring to a bloc of Middle East peace mediators including the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.