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Rival Palestinian Factions Free Hostages


Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have freed all hostages kidnapped in the Gaza Strip during the past several days of fighting.

Mediators say all the hostages are safe. They include top Fatah official and former Palestinian cabinet minister Sufian Abu Zaida, and a number of Hamas officials.

Despite some violence Monday, both sides say their truce to end factional fighting is holding.

Hamas and Fatah have been in a power struggle ever since Hamas won parliamentary elections and took charge of much of the Palestinian government earlier this year.

Palestinian President and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas says he will push ahead with plans to hold early elections despite fierce opposition from Hamas. It threatens to boycott the early vote.

A U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday Hamas is unable to govern and that Washington supports Mr. Abbas as he tries to work though the political impasse. The spokesman said Mr. Abbas understands that the Palestinians want the current situation to end.

The United States, the European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group and have cut off funding to the Hamas government, leaving it in serious financial straits.

Meanwhile, visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Monday in the West Bank that he will do what he can to deliver support to those he calls moderate Palestinians.

Mr. Blair also met Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Olmert rejected Syria's offer to hold talks with Israel, accusing it of supporting Israel's enemies, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Information for this news report is provided AFP and state department briefing.

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