Last Hamas Leader Quits Damascus; Fatah-Hamas Talks Resume

Imad el-Alami returns to Gaza so as not to be seen as endorsing the regime of Syria President Bashar Assad in his bloody crackdown

The final remaining member of the Hamas movement politburo in Syria left that country Sunday, and returned to the Gaza Strip.

The Islamic movement has decided to leave Syria in order not to be seen as endorsing the regime of President Bashar Assad in his bloody crackdown against his own people.

Imad el-Alami, a senior member of Hamas, crossed into Gaza last night through the Rafah crossing. Leaders and supporters of the organization gathered at the border crossing and received him with chants and cheers.

In 1991, Israel deported el-Alami, originally from Gaza Strip, to south Lebanon. Three years ago, he settled in Syria, together with Khaled Meshal, chief of the movement's politburo, in Damascus. El-Alami had previously served as Hamas' ambassador in Tehran.

Hamas has not officially announced that it has moved its headquarters from Damascus.

Sami Abu Zuhri, Gaza's Hamas spokesman, told reporters that el-Alami had come for a visit and refused to say how long he was going to stay.

Earlier yesterday, Israeli Radio reported that he has been serving as a liaison between Hamas militants in the West Bank and in the Strip.

In a related development yesterday, Hamas' Meshal and the head of the rival Fatah movement, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ), resumed talks over efforts to move along a reconciliation pact that remains stalled after nearly a year.

Qatar's emir and other officials joined the meetings in apparent efforts to push the unity accord forward between the two leaders.

A senior Abbas aide, Azzam al-Ahmed, described the dialogue as "positive," but said further discussions were needed with other Palestinians factions over key issues such as elections and forming a transitional unity government.

The delays suggest neither side is yet ready to embrace the pact reached last year, which is aimed at ending more than four years of separate governments in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, ruled by Abbas' Palestinian Authority.

"I'm sure there will be an agreement, but we still have to continue consultations with other Palestinians factions," al-Ahmed told reporters.

He said further talks were set for later in the day yesterday in Qatar's capital Doha.