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Hamas, Fatah make 'breakthrough' in unity talks

Concrete details are due to be formally announced later in the day
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo on 21 December 2011 (AFP).

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have made a "breakthrough" in talks in Cairo aimed at reviving their unity government, negotiators from both sides said on Thursday.

They would not provide concrete details but said a formal announcement was due later in the day.

"A breakthrough has been reached on a number of issues... and an agreement will be announced later on Thursday," a member of the Hamas team told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A Fatah official participating in the talks also confirmed that a breakthrough had been made.

A source has told the Anadolu Agency that Fatah and Hamas have agreed to give the unity government full and immediate control over Gaza.

The two-day talks, which began on Wednesday, come after a joint Palestinian delegation and Israel agreed to hold separate indirect talks in late October to thrash out a lasting truce after this summer's 50-day Gaza war between Hamas and Israel.

The Palestinian rivals had set up a unity government of independents in June but are at loggerheads again, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas threatening to end the administration and accusing Hamas of running a "parallel government" as de facto ruler in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas in turn accuses Abbas's Palestinian Authority, headquartered in Ramallah, of not paying its 45,000 employees in Gaza.

The two officials told AFP the agreement to be declared later Thursday will focus on empowering the unity government in Gaza and allowing it to govern the strip without hindrance.

They said the two factions also agreed that the Palestinian Authority will manage Gaza crossings to allow construction material and humanitarian aid to pass ahead of an international donor conference in October.

The talks between the two sides were crucial for internal Palestinian divisions to be set aside and to agree on a unified strategy during talks with Israeli negotiators in October.

Under Egyptian mediation, Israel and the Palestinians agreed on 26 August to a ceasefire that ended the July-August war between Hamas and Israeli forces.

The conflict ended with an agreement to hold future talks on Palestinian demands to end an eight-year blockade of Gaza and exchange prisoners in Israeli jails for the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza.

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