Hamas, Fatah prisoners agree to borders of Palestinian state in draft agreement

Senior Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israeli jails hammered out a proposal softening Hamas' rejection of Israel's right to exist in what could be a first step toward moderation for the internationally isolated Islamic militant group, Palestinian officials said Thursday.

The proposal, accepting a Palestinian state alongside Israel, was signed by a well-known Hamas militant, but it's far from clear if it will be accepted by the group's hard-line leaders abroad, who have resisted international demands to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Hamas officials in Damascus had no immediate comment.

Since Hamas won Jan. 25 parliamentary elections, the Palestinian government has grown increasingly isolated. Western nations, which list Hamas as a terror group, cut off all funding to the Palestinian Authority, and the Israeli government froze its monthly transfer of $55 million (Ђ43 million) it collects in taxes for the Palestinians.

The economic boycott has left the Palestinian government unable to pay salaries to its 165,000 workers, causing a deepening financial crisis throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Stocks of fuel had been dwindling in recent days and many gas pumps ran dry after Dor Energy, the Israeli company that provides all fuel to the Palestinian territories, cut off supplies Wednesday, citing the Palestinian government's heavy debts.

The crisis appeared to be approaching resolution Thursday, when Mohammed Mustafa, the head of the Palestinian Investment Fund, said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had authorized the release of money to pay the debts.

Mustafa said he spoke to Dor and expected fuel deliveries to restart. "I can't say if it will be today or tomorrow, but it will be soon," he said. Israel's Channel 10 TV reported late Thursday that shipments had been resumed.

The apparent resolution came just days after Western officials, fearing a humanitarian catastrophe in Palestinian towns, agreed to restore some aid to the Palestinians, as long as it was not handled by Hamas. Israeli officials also said they would consider releasing some of the withheld taxes to meet the Palestinians' humanitarian needs, but only if it bypassed Hamas, reports AP.


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