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      Rivals Abbas and Mashaal Hold Rare Telephone Call

      Hamas leader telephones Abbas who assures him that he's not backing down of his demands from Israel.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 12/17/2013, 5:44 AM

      Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal (archive)
      Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal (archive)
      Flash 90

      Hamas's leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal telephoned Palestinian Authority Chairman and Fatah head Mahmoud Abbas this past weekend, in a rare telephone call between leaders of the rival parties, the official news agency Wafa said.

      "Mashaal telephoned president Abbas to thank him for his efforts at different levels, particularly sending aid to the Gaza Strip," Wafa reported, referring to the support sent by the PA to Gaza as it recovers following the major winter storm in recent days.

      On Sunday, Gaza received a long-awaited diesel delivery. The diesel, which came through the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing, was purchased by the PA for Gaza using funds donated by Qatar.

      PA sources told the Ma'an news agency on Monday that Abbas and Mashaal had a "warm" phone call which lasted more than ten minutes.

      The sources confirmed that Mashaal thanked Abbas for his efforts and added that the two also talked about other issues.

      Abbas reportedly confirmed to Mashaal that he already planned "what he should say and what he should do" if the ongoing peace negotiations fail to meet the PA’s demands by the scheduled time limit.

      He also confirmed to Mashaal that the "sacred and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people" are a state on the indefensible pre-1967 borders with eastern Jerusalem as its capital, the so-called “right of return” and the release of all terrorist prisoners being held in Israeli prisons.

      The comments are in line with previous comments made by Abbas and other PA officials, according to which there will not be peace with Israel unless all the Arab demands are met.

      Abbas also asserted that any agreement reached with Israel should be approved by the PA public through a referendum, reported Ma’an.

      "Whatever agreement is reached, it will be put to referendum as nothing can be passed without the consent of the Palestinian people. If we don't obtain all our rights without abandoning a single right, we will have things to say and to do," Abbas was quoted as having told Mashaal.

      Mashaal, for his part, confirmed to Abbas that "I have no fears … as I am confident you will defy all pressures and will never give up on any of the inalienable rights of our people. I respect and appreciate your firmness and be sure that I will back you."

      In October, Abbas spoke to another Hamas leader, Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh, and the two men exchanged greetings for Eid al-Adha.

      Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza, setting up its own government there and cracking down on Fatah officials who reside in the territory.

      Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo in 2011, pledging to set up an interim consensus government of independents that would pave the way for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months.

      The deal has yet to be implemented as the parties have argued over the make-up of the interim government.

      The tensions between the sides flared up again in recent months, as Fatah accused Hamas of being responsible for Egypt closing the Rafiah border crossing with Gaza. Fatah claimed that Egypt decided to close the crossing because Hamas had intervened in Egypt's internal affairs when it backed ousted President Mohammed Morsi, a member of Hamas’s parent movement the Muslim Brotherhood.

      Hamas has rejected Abbas’s talks with Israel and has called on Abbas to work for national unity instead.