Hamas says will free nearly 20 Fatah prisoners
"In order to provide a healthy atmosphere for the dialogue, we decided to free all political prisoners in our custody in Gaza," Hamas leader Haniyeh said.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Thursday for the first time that the Islamist group was holding political prisoners in the Gaza Strip and promised to release them as a goodwill gesture before Palestinian unity talks.
"In order to provide a healthy atmosphere for the dialogue, we decided to free all political prisoners in our custody in Gaza," Haniyeh said during a graduation ceremony for police recruits.
He put the number of those prisoners at "nearly 20". The rival Fatah faction, which lost control of the Gaza Strip to Hamas in fighting in June 2007, has said dozens of its members have been jailed since the takeover of the territory.
Egypt has invited 13 Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Fatah, to reconciliation talks in Cairo on Nov. 9. Haniyeh said he was "cautiously optimistic" about prospects for success.
Hamas had said that Fatah members taken into custody in the Gaza Strip had committed criminal acts and it had denied any political motivation in arresting them.
Fahmi al-Zarir, a Fatah spokesman, said Haniyeh had finally acknowledged that the group "has been abducting Fatah men in Gaza because of their political opinions and nothing else".
Hamas says Fatah security services in the West Bank are holding 400 of its supporters.
Reuters Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Ekim 2008, 20:21