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Hamas Leaders Meet as Israel Strikes Militants


Leaders of the Islamic militant group Hamas have gathered in Cairo to hold talks with Egyptian officials and to discuss forming a government following their win in Palestinian parliament elections, two weeks ago. The meetings are taking place as Israeli forces have stepped up attacks against Palestinian militants.

Hamas leaders from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Iran are in Cairo. It is the first meeting of Hamas leaders since the Islamic militant group won 74 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian legislature, nearly two weeks ago. Speaking to reporters as he was crossing into Egypt from the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar - a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip - says the group will hold talks with Egyptian officials and discuss how to form a government.

"To reach final details about the establishment of the expected government and, at the same time, to continue our dialogue and discussion with Egyptian government in order to reconstruct our relationship with Egypt and with the Arab countries," said Zahar.

Saturday, Hamas leaders reached agreement with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that the new Palestinian Legislative Council, or parliament will convene on February 16. No final agreement has yet been reached on whether Hamas will form a government on its own or with coalition partners such as with Mr. Abbas' Fatah Party, which Hamas soundly defeated in Palestinian legislative elections, January 25.

Hamas leaders have also expressed differing views over their policies toward Israel, with some saying Hamas should enter into a long term truce with the Jewish state and others saying Hamas should not. So far, Hamas has resisted pressure by Western donors and by Arab states such as Egypt, which have told Hamas leaders they need to recognize Israel and disarm or the Palestinian Authority will face the cutoff of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money.

Meanwhile, Israel has stepped up attacks against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip who have been launching missile strikes against targets in southern Israel. An Israeli missile strike killed at least two alleged senior members of the militant group Islamic Jihad, late Sunday. Earlier, Israeli air strikes killed several members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade militant group, after members of the group reportedly launched a missile against Israel.