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      Secret Hamas-Fatah Contacts

      Though Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza two months ago, it appears that Hamas is taking the lead in trying to make peace with its rival.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 8/29/2007, 7:00 PM

      Though Hamas drove Fatah out of Gaza two months ago, it appears that Hamas is taking the lead in trying to make peace with its rival.

      For the first time since the Hamas take-over in Gaza, Hamas has submitted a written proposal to the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, regarding an end to the dispute.

      The item was first reported in a Qatari newspaper, based on a "trusted" Palestinian Authority source.  The report states that senior Hamas leader Mahmoud A-Zahar met with Fatah's Ziad Abu Amru, an Abbas confidante, several days ago in Gaza.  An official of the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization was also present.

      The newspaper report said the contents of the Hamas proposal were not known.  However, there are indications that it includes an offer to return to Fatah control of the civilian and military bodies it took over this past June.  Abbas has reportedly said he would agree to such an offer only if Hamas officially backs it.

      Direct secret contacts between Fatah and Hamas are reportedly underway via other channels as well.

      One route of quiet contacts between Hamas and Fatah is being mediated by Israeli-Arab citizens of Israel.  The daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported this week that a group representing Israeli-Arabs is awaiting Israel's permission to meet with Hamas leaders in Gaza and present them with a proposal for peace with Fatah.

      Hamas has also received a proposal from a PA group suggesting that Hamas take the first move towards peace by ceding the civilian and military bodies it took over this past June.

      In Other Venues, Strife as Usual
      On the other hand, Hamas diplomatic-desk leader Khaled Mashaal, living in Damascus, says that Fatah has rebuffed all of Hamas's peace initiatives. "We didn’t take over Gaza merely in order to give it back," Mashaal said.

      In the meanwhile, Fatah demands an international campaign against a cartoon video currently being broadcast on the Hamas Al-Aqsa television station.  The video depicts Fatah men as mice stealing food, as attackers of modestly-dressed women, and as destroyers of mosques.  Hamas, on the other hand, is portrayed as a stately lion waiting patiently for the proper moment to destroy all the mice.

      Another issue of tension between the two terror groups is the recent decision by PA prime minister Salam Fayyad to close 103 charity organizations in Gaza because of financial irregularities.  Hamas spokesman Fuzi Barhum says the decision was political and meant only to weaken Hamas.

      Months of negotiations regarding a unity government between Fatah and Hamas in the Palestinian Authority preceded the break-out of violence between the two terrorist organizations early this summer.