The Palestinian factions, including arch rivals Hamas and Fatah, will resume their Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks in Cairo on 1st April, announced a senior Fatah official on Tuesday.

He said that the rival Palestine factions would try harder at the forthcoming Egyptian-mediated talks to reach an agreement on the formation of a national unity government, which would pave the way for holding legislative and presidential elections by January.

The first round of reconciliation talks had ended without reaching a deal on the formation of a national unity government last week, after the rival Palestinian factions failed to agree on power sharing and on whether the new unity government would honor the previous peace deals signed between Israel and the PLO.

The moderate Fatah faction that rules the West Bank backs negotiations with Israel, while Hamas, the radical Islamist group that controls Gaza, believes in armed struggle for liberating Palestine and refuses to recognize Israel.

The formation of a new unity government in the Palestine territories is a major requirement for the progress of the international efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip, which was devastated by a 22-day Israeli offensive in December.

The western donors, including the U.S., EU and UN, consider Hamas to be a terrorist group over its refusal to recognize Israel and to renounce violence, and have insisted that the funds pledged for Gaza reconstruction should be channeled through the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, and not Hamas.

Israel had launched a 22-day offensive against the Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip on 27th December in response to continued rocket fire into southern Israel by Palestinian militants in Gaza after a previous six-month long Egypt-brokered cease-fire deal expired on 19th December.

The three-week offensive killed some 1,300 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and it was finally halted on 17th January by separate unilateral cease-fire declarations by Israel and Hamas, the radical Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip.

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