Hamas announced on Wednesday it will prohibit around 400 Fatah members from leaving the Gaza Strip to attend the first Fatah congress in 20 years. Hamas, which currently rules the Gaza Strip, “has decided not to allow members of Fatah in the Gaza Strip to go to the West Bank to participate in the sixth congress.”
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, said the travel ban would be lifted if Fatah frees Hamas prisoners detained in the West Bank.
The congress, scheduled for August 4th in Bethlehem, is expected to attract 2,000 delegates from around the world.
Hamas and Fatah, the two main rival Palestinian factions, have seen heightened tensions since the June 2007 Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip. Both groups have since traded accusations of persecuting their rivals.