Fatah agrees to unity deal
Ramallah - Fatah has agreed to an Egyptian proposal for the two main Palestinian factions to separately sign a long delayed unity deal by October 15, a senior party official said on Tuesday.
But relations between the group and its Islamist Hamas rivals remain toxic, with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, the head of Fatah, accusing Hamas of stalling the talks and trying to preserve its "black coup" in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas again accused the Islamist group of using a dispute over a UN report into the Gaza war to try to derail the unity talks but said that Fatah would "stay with the Egyptian reconciliation process until the last minute."
"We know Hamas are looking for any excuse. This is not the first time they have disagreed about the dialogue, and now they are doing so with the excuse of the Goldstone report," Abbas said in a speech in the West Bank town of Jenin.
"They don't want to go to Egypt, they don't want to bring about national unity and they don't want to turn back from their black coup," he said.
Abbas went on to accuse Hamas leaders of fleeing during Israel's assault on Gaza at the turn of the year, which killed some 1 400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and left vast swathes of the impoverished territory in ruins.
"Hamas leaders, and I am saying this for the first time, fled to Sinai in ambulances and left their people to be slaughtered," he said.
Fatah officials had earlier said that they would send a delegation to Egypt to sign onto the agreement and said that Cairo had given Hamas 48 hours to present its final response to the written agreement.
Hamas would not immediately comment on the report.
Egypt had announced last week that the rivals would sign the unity deal in Cairo on October 25-26.
But Hamas has asked for a postponement because of Abbas's controversial decision to support deferring a vote on a Gaza war report at the UN Human Rights Council.
The damning report into the three week war at the turn of the year, authored by former international war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone, accused both Israel and Palestinian militants of war crimes.
According to the latest Egyptian proposal, Fatah and Hamas would separately sign a unity deal by October 15 and the rest of the Palestinian factions would sign by October 20.
An official ceremony in Cairo would be postponed until after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha in late November or early December.
Fatah and Hamas have increasingly been at odds since January 2006, when the Islamists routed the long-dominant secular party in Palestinian parliamentary elections.
The two parties signed a reconciliation deal in Saudi Arabia in February 2007 after months of escalating tensions dissolved into deadly Gaza street clashes.
But the tensions boiled over again, and a week of deadly street battles ended with Hamas routing pro-Fatah forces from Gaza in June 2007, effectively cleaving the Palestinians into separate rival entities.