A leader of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement said this week that the group would participate in Palestinian municipal elections that are scheduled for the spring.
Hamas, which militantly opposes the Israeli-Palestinian accords, boycotted the Jan. 20 Palestinian Council and presidential elections.
But Hamas spokesman Mahmoud Zahar said the group would participate in the municipal elections because local officials would serve the daily needs of the residents of the self-rule areas.
He added that participation in the municipal voting would not signify Hamas’ recognition of the Palestinian self-rule government or of the peace accords with Israel.
Meanwhile, 12 Hamas activists were released from Palestinian jails this week.
Among those released was a leader of Izz a-Din al-Kassam the military wing of Hamas.
The releases reportedly came in the wake of a meeting between officials of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
In a related development, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat approved the opening of a Hamas office in the Gaza Strip and the licensing of a pro-Hamas newspaper.