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Rival Palestinian Factions Meet in Ramallah

Rival Palestinian Factions Meet in Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has held talks with officials in the rival Palestinian group, Hamas, the first direct talks between the two sides in more than a year.

The meeting took place on Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Palestinian news agency WAFA quotes Mr. Abbas as telling Hamas officials that Palestinians will not be able to reach their goal of establishing an independent state without a reconciliation between his Fatah party and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas also says he is willing to travel to Gaza, in a bid to end divisions between the two parties.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials say Palestinian militants in Gaza fired two rockets into southern Israel on Saturday. They say one rocket damaged a home.

Tensions between the two sides heightened over the past week. Militants have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells into Israel while Israeli forces have responded with air strikes.

On Friday, Israel announced it would deploy an expensive rocket defense system called an "Iron Dome" to the region. The government said the interceptor system is capable of shooting down rockets fired from a range of five to 70 kilometers.

The announcement followed a pledge by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government was prepared to act with "great force" to halt rocket attacks from Gaza.

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