Hamas and Fatah are preparing to release the lion's share of their respective 'political prisoners' by the end of the year.
“By the end of the year, all political detainees will be released except those who wish to remain in custody for special reasons related to their security both in the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip,” the PA-affiliated Ma'an News Agency quoted PA negotiator Munib al-Masri on Saturday.
The move comes on the heels of reconciliation talks between the rival factions in Cairo on Thursday that resulted in an announcement that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terror factions would be joining the PLO.
According to al-Masri, security concerns pertaining to detainees remaining in custody included both targeted killing by Israel and attacks by competing factions before the reconciliation agreement goes into effect.
Israeli security observers note the fear of potential targeted killings by Israel indicates that many of the prisoners are not political detainees, but terrorists with Israeli blood on their hands.
Following Hamas' seizure of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in its bloody 2007 putsch, during which Hamas terrorists threw Fatah patients out of hospital windows, both factions began arresting the other's members – especially those affiliated with the PA and Hamas 'security services.'
Security officers from both factions have been tied to terror attacks on Israeli civilians in Judea, Samaria, and southern Israel on numerous occasions. Just three weeks ago Israel reportedly snatched a Hamas security officer from Sinai who was planning to kidnap Israelis.
Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Salim Zanoun said the prisoner exchange was one of a series of goodwill gestures between the factions as talks for "reconstructing" the PLO and inducting Hamas and its terror allies into the organization.
The move for unity comes as PLO officials say they will downgrade ties with Israel and rededicate themselves to 'popular resistance' as they pursue a unilateral track at the United Nations.
In recent weeks Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal has tried to rebrand the terror faction as more pragmatic as Islamic parties reap the rewards of the Arab Spring and has said Hamas would be joining the PLO in its campaign of 'popular resistance' - but he maintains armed conflict remains an option. Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar has openly said any peace agreement made with Israel will only serve as a "prelude to war."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev dismissed Mashaal’s statements, however, saying Hamas has repeatedly said it seeks Israel’s destruction.
“Hamas is very open and public about its position — it believes the Jewish state should be obliterated, it fundamentally opposes peace and reconciliation, and it sees every Israeli civilian as a legitimate target,” Regev tol AP.
“One cannot build policy upon wishful thinking,” he added.
The factions’ positions are nearly identical. The PLO charter still maintains, despite Oslo Accord promises, that "armed resistance" is the only path to statehood and that 'Palestine' – which incorporates all of present day Israel – is indivisible.