March 28, 2009 / 12:00 PM / 11 years ago

Hamas frees rival Fatah leaders in Gaza

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip released three leaders from the rival Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hours after they were arrested for questioning, Fatah officials said on Saturday.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip said the Fatah men were detained for questioning after holding an “illegal factional meeting.” Fatah officials later confirmed that the three men had been released.

They said among those held was Abdel-Rahman Hamad, a former minister in the Palestinian Authority, who had been meeting fellow Fatah members in the city of Gaza.

Hamas and Fatah will meet on April 1 in Cairo for a new round of Egyptian-brokered unity talks aimed at healing a rift that has been widening since the Islamists group seized the Gaza Strip in 2007 from forces loyal to Abbas.

The Palestinian president later set up a new administration in the West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.

Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Ari Rabinovitch and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Giles Elgood

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