Hamas leader to begin forming new Palestinian government

Hamas on Monday held coalition talks to form the Palestinians' first government led by Islamic militants, after winning the nod from moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

In a meeting Monday evening, Abbas was to officially appoint Hamas' Gaza leader, Ismail Haniyeh, as the designated prime minister, giving him five weeks to cobble together a government.

Hamas controls 74 of 132 parliament seats and could govern alone. However, Hamas has said it seeks coalition partners, including Abbas' defeated Fatah Party, apparently to make a Hamas-led government more acceptable to the world. Senior Fatah officials have said their party would not join a Hamas government.

Throughout the day, Hamas legislators were to meet with potential coalition partners.

Haniyeh is considered a pragmatist in the hierarchy of the violent Islamic movement, which has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel. But Israel ruled out any compromise, cutting off millions of dollars of vital funds and branding the new regime a "terrorist authority" even before it takes office.

Early Monday, Israeli forces operating in the West Bank city of Nablus shot and killed a senior member of the militant Islamic Jihad group, Palestinians said. The militant group identified the man as Ahmed Abu Sharik, 30, its top commander in the region.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Shick, an Israeli commander, said his forces caught a group of militants, including Abu Sharik, off guard on the second day of an operation in Nablus.

"We found a group of people we have been seeking for a while and we went for them," he said. "We know every street and alley, where they are and where they hide," reports the AP.

I.L.

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