Hamas frees six Fatah prisoners amid unity pact

Six prisoners were freed from rival party Fatah on Monday as part of a Palestinian unity pact the Islamist Hamas signed with Fatah

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A Palestinian unity pact went into force on Monday as the interior ministry in the Hamas-ruled Gaza said it freed six prisoners from rival party Fatah.

The move came two weeks after the pact was agreed on by Palestinian president and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal who met again on Monday in the Qatari capital Doha.

"President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority should provide a positive atmosphere for reconciliation and stop the practices of (his) security services,"Issa Nashar, an adviser to Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, stated, asking Abbas to reciprocate after the announcement, in comments carried by Agence France-Presse.

According to Hamas security sources, the prisoners had been serving sentences for "security offences." Fatah officials say over 40 of their members remain in Gaza jails, while Hamas puts the number at under 20, according to AFP.

Hamas says that dozens of its activists are in West Bank jails as the two parties have detained several of each other's members since Hamas won 2006 polls.

The two sides have fought a bloody civil war in which Hamas seized the Gaza Strip and Fatah remained in power in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel suspended U.S.-backed peace talks with Abbas in the wake of his deal with Hamas, though Abbas has said he hopes to revive the negotiations in order to achieve a Palestinian state in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

(With AFP)