Abbas rival joins meeting of Hamas-led parliament

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) –


Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's exiled rival took part in a public meeting with Hamas members of parliament Thursday for the first time in a decade.

Mohammed Dahlan was Abbas's ally inside the Fatah party until they fell out, with Dahlan expelled in 2011.

He now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates and has been moving closer to Gaza's rulers Hamas in recent months, with rumours he could join a government in the Palestinian enclave.

Abbas, the internationally recognised leader based in the West Bank, has sought to isolate both Dahlan and Islamist movement Hamas.

A portion of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has not met in full since Hamas seized Gaza from Fatah in a near civil war in 2007, held an emergency session Thursday.

Dahlan attended via video link, while seven of his allies in Gaza attended in person -- along with 22 Hamas members, according to Hamas's media office.

The 132-member parliament is dominated by Hamas with 74 members, while Fatah has 45.

He said he had been talking with Hamas to reach "understandings which are able to restore hope to the people of Gaza and alleviate their suffering."

He added that talks with the Islamists were going well "but we are still at the beginning of the road."

The meeting comes after a delegation headed by Hamas's Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar met with Dahlan in Cairo in June to discuss ways to resolve the crises in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.

Reconciliation between Hamas and Dahlan would be seen as a blow for Abbas.

Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars with Israel since 2008 and the enclave has been under an Israeli blockade for a decade.

Egypt's crossing with Gaza has also remained largely closed in recent years.

The strip suffers from severe electricity shortages and a crippled economy which has left it with one of the world's highest unemployment rates.

Faced with deteriorating conditions, isolation and mounting pressure inside the Gaza Strip, Hamas has turned to Egypt and Dahlan.