Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh made a rare phone call to his bitter rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Monday to offer condolences for the death of Abbas' brother.
The brief call was the first time the men - who run rival Palestinian governments - have spoken since immediately after Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, Abbas' Palestinian Authority has governed only in the West Bank.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said the president's older brother, Atta Rida Shehada Abbas, died Monday morning in Damascus. It did not give his age. President Abbas, 76, will receive mourners at his Ramallah office on Wednesday, it said.
On its website, the agency quoted Abbas as saying, "My great fighting brother has gone to join the caravans of martyrs from our faithful, patient people who have given themselves for Palestine."
It said the elder Abbas was among the first generation of the Fatah movement, which dominates the Palestinian Authority.
In a statement from his office, Haniyeh said he had called Abbas to "express solidarity with the family and hopes that the late brother will rest in peace."
Contacts between leaders of the rival groups are rare, though condolence calls have been made before. Two years ago, Abbas called Hamas strongman Mahmoud Zahar to express his condolences when Zahar's son was killed during an Israel incursion into Gaza
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