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Gaza-based ministers sworn in to unity government through video

Ministers blocked from official unity government ceremony take oath while group stops publishing Hamas newspapers under Israeli pressure
Palestinian protesters wave Fatah and Hamas flags in support of national unity (AFP)

The final four ministers of Palestine's new unity government took their oath of office on Thursday through video conference to the West Bank.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah swore in the Gaza-based ministers of women affairs, justic, public works and housing and labour through the video link who were blocked by Israeli authorities from attending the official 2 June swearing in ceremony.

The government was formed as part of a national reconciliation deal signed in late April by rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas. 

None of the ministers will be politically affiliated in the new government which will run the affairs of Gaza and the West Bank until legislative elections are held within months.

The virtual ceremony comes as West Bank-based newspaper group Al-Ayyam says it has stopped printing and distributing Hamas newspapers - including Falastin, Al-Resala, and Al-Istiqlal - after receiving warnings form the Israeli army.

The decision followed a phone call late Wednesday from the Israeli army, threatening to close Al-Ayyam's offices if it did not stop publishing the papers, said Al-Ayyam's managing editor, Abdel Nasser al-Najjar.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

Israeli soldiers raided Al-Ayyam's offices last month and issued similar threats.

Al-Ayyam has been printing the three papers since April, when a surprise reconciliation deal between the Hamas rulers of Gaza and its Fatah rivals brought the Islamist group's publications back to West Bank newsstands.

When Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation - which Fatah dominates - unveiled their reconciliation deal in April,  Israel said it would not negotiate with any government backed by Hamas, putting the final nail in the coffin of the latest round of US-brokered peace talks.

In a separate crackdown on Palestinian media, Israeli police raided the Jerusalem studios of Palestine TV on Friday and briefly detained three staff for questioning.

Israeli public radio said police suspected Palestine TV of broadcasting "incitements to violence".

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