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Egypt Invites Palestinian Factions to Sign Unity Deal

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (file photo)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (file photo)

Palestinian officials say Egypt has invited Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Cairo next week for the signing of an agreement between the two rival factions.

Officials said Friday the signing would take place on May 4. TheReuters news agency says it will be the culmination of a three-day ceremony that begins on May 2.

The agreement calls for the formation of an interim government followed by presidential and legislative elections within a year.

The Hamas and Fatah movements have been divided since 2007. Hamas rules the coastal Gaza Strip. Fatah is the ruling party in the West Bank. The two areas are separated by Israel, which does not allow routine passage from one to the other.

Meanwhile, Egypt has announced plans to reopen its Rafah border crossing with Gaza in spite of Israel's partial blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory. Israeli officials have expressed concerns about security if the crossing is opened.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has sharply criticized the Palestinian reunification deal because Israel considers Hamas a terrorist group. He said Mr. Abbas must choose "peace with Israel or peace with Hamas." He added, "There is no possibility for peace with both."

Mr. Abbas Thursday sought to play down the concerns, insisting the Palestinian Authority will continue to seek peace talks with Israel while his Fatah movement pursues reconciliation with Hamas.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.