by Saud Abu Ramadan
GAZA, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Islamic Hamas movement rejected on Wednesday participation in Palestinian elections early next year unless a reconciliation deal is reached with rival Fatah party.
Hamas sources in Gaza stressed that the movement would never go to legislative and presidential elections on Jan. 25 before signing a reconciliation deal that ends the current internal rift.
"Ending the file of political prisoners in the West Bank, and reaching a reconciliation agreement are conditions for holding the elections on time. Otherwise, the idea will be rejected for sure," the sources told Xinhua.
Hamas accused its bitter rival, Fatah party, of preparing for the elections instead of engaging itself in reconciliation efforts, because they "thought that the results of the elections would definitely in their favor."
Hamas sources said the recent separate talks, which a senior Egyptian security delegation held in the last couple of days with Fatah and Hamas leaders in both Ramallah and Damascus, "were not fruitful."
"Hamas expressed its position before the Egyptian officials that August 25 must be the date for signing a reconciliation agreement and not just a continuation of ill and fruitless dialogue," said the sources.
Abbas stated earlier that he would prefer holding presidential and legislative elections before the rival parties reconcile and end their current feuds.
Gaza Hamas strongman Mahmoud Al-Zahar insisted that Hamas movement wants to end the feuds, release prisoners and reach a reconciliation agreement before going to the ballots.
Meanwhile, the deposed government of Gaza Strip-ruling Hamas movement on Wednesday released from its Gaza jail 100 prisoners and Fatah members.
Hamas ministry of interior said in a statement that the release of 50 Fatah prisoners and another 50 held for criminal accusations, were a goodwill gesture on the occasion of Ramadan, Muslims' annual month of fasting which is to start on Saturday in the Islamic world.
"The 50 Fatah prisoners were arrested for security reasons," said the statement. Hamas has always denied that it has political Fatah prisoners in its Gaza jails.
In the meantime, Hamas has also slammed what it termed "America's pressure on Arab states to have normalization of relations with Israel."
It called on the Arab regimes' leaders not to normalize ties with Israel in exchange for a temporary freeze of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Gaza Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned in a statement that the normalization of ties with Israel would be "a dangerous prelude to a complete Arab political collapse."
U.S. President Barack Obama is working on a peace plan to end conflicts in the Middle East between the Arabs and Israelis. Obama supports a full Arab normalization with Israel, when the latter is committed to peace.
"These attempts prove that the U.S. administration carries no change in its Middle East policies and it still adopts old policies," Abu Zuhri said.
The U.S. has been a peace sponsor since 1993 international peace conference held in Madrid between Israel and several Arab countries. Several peace deals were signed in the U.S. between Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt and Jordan.
Chief Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat told Xinhua that "Israel's new position is not enough," referring to earlier reports saying that Israel is ready to temporarily freeze settlement activities in the West Bank.
Hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced earlier that his right-wing government would stop building up new settlements in the West Bank, "but will keep in consideration the existing settlements' natural growth."
"By making such a declaration, Israel is trying to overcome the international pressure to halt settlement activities," Erekat said, stressing that the world has to exert more pressure on Israel to completely stop settlement.
"The Palestinian political stance is clear. Israel should implement the requirements of the Road Map peace plan, mainly stopping settlement activities, including what is termed as the natural growth of settlements," said Erekat.