Abbas Orders Hamas Prisoner Release

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has ordered the release of prisoners affiliated to Hamas in the West Bank.

Azam al-Ahmad, the head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Al Jazeera on Monday that the order would take effect in the coming days.

He did not mention how many prisoners would be freed.

Al-Ahmed said: "The gesture aims at putting an end to division and lays the ground for Palestinian reconciliation talks to be held by Egypt next month."

Hamas had earlier accused Palestinian security forces of a systematic crackdown on its members in the West Bank.

Hamas prisoners held in Israeli jails also issued a statement describing the ongoing arrest of their fellow members in the West Bank as "the prime and direct threat to any success of Palestinian reconciliation talks".

In a news conference last week, Ismail al-Ashkar, a Hamas MP, had said that "Fatah claims of releasing 20 prisoners out of 760 detainees, who suffer all kinds of torture, is a joke".

Hamas and Fatah announced last week that they would exchange lists of political prisoners following meetings in Ramallah and Gaza to clear the air before reconciliation talks in Cairo next month.
( English)

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