Hamas ceremony, Gaza
Hamas ceremony, GazaFlash 90

Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces on Sunday released a senior Hamas official who was arrested last Thursday on charges of slandering Palestinian Arab officials and fomenting sectarian strife, paving the way for Hamas to participate in a meeting of faction leaders in Egypt at the end of this month, JPost’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported.

The move came after Hamas and other Palestinian Arab groups, including Islamic Jihad, threatened to boycott the planned meeting of Palestinian Arab faction leaders in Cairo on July 30 to discuss ways of achieving national unity.

PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas had invited the leaders of the factions to the meeting in response to the Israeli military operation in Jenin earlier this month.

The PA chairman, who himself might participate in the Cairo discussions, is hoping to convince Hamas and other groups to join a new unity government that would end the split between Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.

However, the arrest of 63-year-old Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra, a resident of the town of Tubas in the Jordan Valley, drew sharp criticism from Hamas and other factions, as well as human rights organizations, and threatened to torpedo the planned talks in Cairo.

Shortly after his arrest, Abu Arra, who suffers from a heart disease, was rushed to the hospital for medical treatment. On Saturday he was transferred to a PA police station in Tulkarem.

In response to the arrest, Hamas and Islamic Jihad threatened to boycott the meeting in Cairo unless the PA security forces released Abu Arra and other “political detainees.”

Following the release of Abu Arra, Hamas announced it had accepted Abbas’ invitation to participate in the meeting of the faction leaders in Cairo.

Hamas and Fatah have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup.

A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation agreement in October of 2017, as part of which Hamas was to transfer power in Gaza by December 1 of that year.

That deadline was initially put back by 10 days and later reportedly hit “obstacles”. It has never been implemented.