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The Hamas organization said on Thursday it has released 45 prisoners from its jails in the Gaza Strip ahead of the upcoming general elections, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The Hamas-run “interior ministry” said the release of the prisoners is "a goodwill gesture aimed to prepare a positive atmosphere for holding the general elections and ending 14 years of internal Palestinian division."

In a statement, Hamas said the prisoners were arrested "for reasons that had caused harms to the local factions and their armed wings."

It said there are no prisoners "arrested for their political views and opinion" in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas recently issued a decree ordering general elections in PA-assigned territories.

The decree states that legislative elections will take place on May 22. A “presidential” election will take place on July 31. It sets a deadline of August 31 for establishing the Palestinian National Council.

Abbas' term as PA chairman was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

No PA elections have taken place since 2006 and similar initiatives in the past have failed to result in elections.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since Hamas violently took over Gaza in a bloody coup in 2007, but the two organizations recently reached a comprehensive agreement on holding elections.

Hamas’ release of prisoners comes days after PA cabinet leader Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Hamas to release political prisoners imprisoned in its jails in Gaza.

Abbas last week enacted a decree to consolidate public freedoms in PA territories ahead of the general elections.

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