Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah
Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra'ad Salah. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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The northern and southern branches of Israel's Islamic Movement merged on Wednesday, following a years-long rift that had them operating as nearly separate organizations.

Announcement of the movement's reunification came on the same day that rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo.

The leaders of both Islamic Movement branches said in a joint statement that they had been working on unification for months, and that their efforts had finally borne fruit. The two branches will begin collaborating on projects and coordinating their positions on various issues, according to the statement.

At this stage, there is still no resolution of one of the main disagreements that caused the initial split in the movement - participation in Knesset elections.

The southern branch has participated in parliamentary elections and is represented in today's Knesset by two United Arab List-Ta'al MKs. The northern branch has opposed participation in parliamentary elections, although it has taken part in local authority elections.

The northern branch, under the leadership of Sheikh Ra'ad Salah, is seen as the more radical of the two. Salah has had repeated run-ins with Israeli authorities, including over his alleged role in the Gaza flotilla incident last year.