DAMASCUS – Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on Friday for unconditional talks with the rival Fatah faction to halt violence between Palestinians but vowed to keep up the Islamist group’s armed struggle against Israel.
“I urge my brothers in Fatah to solve the Palestinian crisis and restore national unity through unconditional dialogue,” Meshaal said at a rally in the Syrian capital to mark the 20th anniversary of Hamas’ founding.
“We can manage the conflict with Israel together, without dropping the option of resistance.”
The statement followed an offer last week by President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads Fatah, to hold reconciliation talks if Hamas ceded control of Gaza. Abbas also renewed his call for Hamas to agree to early elections.
The rift between the two groups widened after Hamas defeated Fatah in a 2006 poll. At least five Palestinians were killed and 50 wounded in clashes in the Gaza strip between Fatah and Hamas activists shortly after Abbas made his remarks.
Meshaal said the issue of early elections could be addressed at the proposed talks. He reiterated Hamas’ rejection of giving up its authority in Gaza.
Meshaal said Hamas was forced to assert its authority in the strip in June to stop chaos he accused Fatah of fermenting. The take-over prompted Abbas to sack a Hamas-led government and appoint an administration loyal to him in the West Bank.
“The problem is not early elections. Come to an unconditional dialogue and we will be ready to discuss anything,” said Meshaal, who lives in exile in Syria along with other high-level Hamas officials.