In New Unity Step, PA Lifts 7-year Ban on pro-Hamas Newspaper

Following reconciliation deal reached as peace talks with Israel collapsed, Hamas and Fatah move closer together.

Falasteen newspaper
Palestinians reading the pro-Islamist newspaper "Falasteen" in Hebron, May 10, 2014. AFP

A pro-Islamist newspaper was sold in the West Bank on Saturday for the first time in seven years, another sign of a Palestinian unity pact that prompted Israel to suspend peace talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

His Palestinian Authority permitted printers to roll out the tabloid, "Falasteen", Arabic for Palestine, three days after Hamas Islamists in control of Gaza allowed a leading West Bank daily to be sold in their midst.

Abbas's Fatah movement and Hamas announced a unity pact on April 23, with the stated aim of forming a joint government in five weeks, angering Israel and spurring it to shelve already faltering peace talks soon after.

Hamas rejects Israel's existence and both the Jewish state and United States regard the group as a terrorist organization. It seized Gaza from Fatah forces in a brief 2007 civil war.

Iyad Al-Qara, director general of Falesteen, said its reappearance in the West Bank was "a positive and important step towards pushing reconciliation forward."

The newspaper was last sold in the West Bank in 2007 when ties ruptured over Hamas's bloody seizure of control in Gaza, while Fatah retained control in the West Bank.

Al-Quds, the biggest-selling Palestinian daily in the West Bank, resumed sales in Gaza on Wednesday. The newspaper is printed in East Jerusalem and includes articles critical of a wide spectrum of political parties.

Abbas met Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Qatar earlier this week in a further step to bolster the latest of a series of efforts to heal the Palestinian political rift.

Deep mistrust and enmity have scuppered previous deals, with both sides struggling to reconcile Hamas's commitment to fighting Israel with Abbas's choice to negotiate with it.

In the past two weeks, Hamas and Fatah have both been following through with unity steps. Last week Hamas lifted the ban on an independent West Bank publication and released six Fatah prisoners.