Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal
Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled MashaalIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Leaders of rival factions Fatah and Hamas spoke via telephone on the eve of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, stressing the need for reconciliation, a Hamas official told AFP on Tuesday.

Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniyeh spoke to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah, of the "need for a return to national unity and an end to division" during the late night conversation.

The two men exchanged greetings for Eid al-Adha, which Muslims began celebrating on Tuesday.

Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007, setting up its own government there and cracking down on Fatah officials who reside in the territory, leading to the long-standing rivalry between the two factions.

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.

More than two years later, the deal has yet to be implemented. The parties have argued over the make-up of the interim government, and a February 2012 deal signed by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha intended to overcome outstanding differences was opposed by Hamas members in Gaza.

Hamas still opposes the appointment of prime minister Rami Hamdallah, choosing instead to recognize its own Haniyeh.

The Islamist movement says it is under severe economic pressure since the Egyptian army, which ousted Hamas ally Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July, destroyed hundreds of tunnels used for smuggling into Gaza.

Egypt’s army blames Hamas for being involved in teaching Islamists in Egypt how to carry out attacks. Hamas has denied the allegations.

Fatah recently accused Hamas of being responsible for Egypt closing the Rafiah border crossing with Gaza, saying that Egypt decided to close the crossing because Hamas had intervened in Egypt's internal affairs.