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Palestinian Factions Agree to Stop Fighting


The two main Palestinian factions - Hamas and Fatah - say they have agreed to stop fighting. The agreement to stop growing violence in the Palestinian territories comes as international donors agreed to temporarily resume aid payments to Palestinians.

After weeks of growing violence, Hamas and Fatah appear to have stepped back from the brink - agreeing to stop fighting in the Gaza Strip that has paralyzed life in the territory.

After marathon talks, with Fatah officials, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City that he hopes the agreement will bring calm to the Palestinians who live in Gaza.

Haniyeh says the agreement shows Palestinians are more united than divided. He says despite their different political opinions they realize their main struggle is with the Israeli occupation.

Fatah negotiator Samir Masharawee told reporters that Fatah is also committed to easing tensions.

The Fatah official says, under the agreement, joint Hamas-Fatah committees will work together to try and prevent or control any outbreaks of violence.

Fatah and Hamas have been engaged in an escalating conflict - largely centered on a dispute over who will control the Palestinian security forces, following the Hamas takeover of the Palestinian government after Hamas won legislative elections in January.

Announcement of the agreement to end fighting came as the "International Quartet" (Russia, the EU, the United Nations and the United States) on the Middle East agreed to set up a temporary fund to channel humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. International donors and Israel had cut off financial transfers and aid to the Palestinian Authority because of the Hamas refusal to recognize Israel. Speaking Wednesday, on Israeli Army Radio, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni gave a cautious welcome to the plan.

Livni says Israel has no objection to humanitarian aid reaching needy Palestinians as long as it bypasses the Hamas government.

Since the aid-cutoff took effect two months ago, the Hamas-led Palestinian government has been unable to pay an estimated 140,000 Palestinian civil servants. Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh Wednesday called the Quartet decision "dangerous," saying it was designed to push the Palestinian government to make concessions and to give legitimacy to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

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