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Abbas orders release of Hamas prisoners

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Mahmoud Abbas has ordered the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank in advance of Palestinian unity talks.

The Palestinian Authority president on Monday announced the release, which should happen in the next few days, Fatah faction chairman Azzam al-Ahmed told Arab news outlets.

Ahmed said that Hamas activists arrested for alleged security violations would be released.

Representatives of Fatah, the political party of Abbas, will meet with Hamas officials next month under Egyptian auspices in an attempt to reach an agreement on a unity government, according to reports. Egypt has set a deadline of July 7 to reach an agreement. 

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Egypt over the weekend to learn about progress in Cairo’s attempts to bring the two Palestinian sides together, Ha’aretz reported.

During a meeting Saturday between Abbas and Syrian President Bashar Assad, the two leaders discussed the efforts toward Palestinian reconciliation, according to Reuters.

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