Hamas: Ready for talks with Fatah, to hold elections in Gaza

Masked youth cadets from the Ezzedine al Qassam Brigades the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement march in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis

Hamas has agreed to hold talks with the rival Fatah movement, dissolve the Gaza administrative committee and hold general elections in a deal to end their long-running feud in the Palestinian territories, the group said in a statement early on Sunday.

The movement, which has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it seized the control of the Palestinian area in 2007, said it is ready to meet again in Cairo with Abbas' Fatah movement and other factions on the formation on a unity government.

The Hamas movement said in a press statement that the announcement comes in response to the Egyptian efforts, led by the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, out of an Egyptian concern for achieving Palestinian reconciliation and ending the division.

In its Sunday statement, Hamas invited Abbas' government to return to Gaza and said it was ready to enter talks with Fatah and hold new elections.

Since then, the Palestinian leadership has been divided between two rival governments. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Egypt has been brokering talks with Fatah to implement a deal signed in 2011 in Cairo with Hamas to end their dispute and form an interim government before elections.

Egypt recently invited top Hamas officials to Cairo for reconciliation discussions, and last week, Abbas sent a delegation of representatives to Egypt as well.

The move also comes after a series of Palestinian Authority measures created to pressure Hamas, including reduction of electricity in Gaza and cutting of salaries.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, a densely populated coastal territory that shares borders with Egypt and Israel, with which it has fought three wars since 2008.

Israel's increasing restrictions on exit permits for Gaza residents, an escalating sewage crisis that is contaminating the strip's beaches, and high levels of unemployment, are all contributing to a mounting sense of exhaustion in the strip. Hamas and Fatah agreed in 2014 to form a national reconciliation government, but despite that agreement, Hamas's shadow government has continued to rule the Gaza Strip.

United Nations officials have urged Israel to lift its decade-long blockade of Gaza.

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