Hamas’s Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Thursday invited Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to a meeting to discuss the formation of a unity government, reports the Ma’an news agency.
Abbas heads the Fatah movement, a longtime rival of Hamas. The two movements 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.
In a speech Haniyeh delivered to the al-Quds Scientific Conference in Gaza City, he reportedly said it is necessary to discuss the political agenda of the hoped-for unity government, in line with a reconciliation agreement reached in Cairo in 2012.
Haniyeh, according to Ma’an, stressed that the agenda of the unity government should be to protect “Palestinian resistance” and non-negotiable principals.
"The only battle our people should fight is against occupation," Haniyeh declared. "We should not be fighting any battles against Egypt or Ramallah or others."
The comments come several days after Hamas notified Abbas of its decision to join a national unity government which will prepare for upcoming presidential and parliamentarian elections.
That notification came after a rare phone conversation between Abbas and Hamas's leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal. The Hamas politburo chief reportedly called Abbas to thank him for the support sent by the PA to Gaza as it recovers following the major winter storm in recent days.
Hamas spokeswoman Isra Mudallal told Ma'an that Abbas has not yet agreed or refused to form a unity government with Hamas.
"The pressure is on the Palestinian Authority," Mudallal said. "Haniyeh has been calling for an agreement."
Abbas is currently engaged in peace talks with Israel, which Hamas has rejected. The movement has called on Abbas to work for national unity instead.
Despite the talks with Israel, however, Abbas reportedly confirmed to Mashaal during this week’s phone call 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.