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  • 2 June 2014, 18:54

Palestinian Unity Government Ends Bitter Rift

Rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas have formed a unity government, ending a seven-year split in a landmark deal which led Israel to suspend peace talks.

The cabinet was sworn in by President Mahmoud Abbas in a ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Hamas seized Gaza from Mr Abbas' forces in 2007, leaving him to control only parts of the West Bank.

Both sides have since become entrenched in their territories, setting up their own governments and security forces and numerous attempts at reconciliation have failed.

Mr Abbas said: "Today, and after announcing the government of national unity, we declare the end of division that caused catastrophic harm to our cause."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government would boycott a Palestinian administration supported by Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction.

Having already suspended US-sponsored peace talks, Mr Netanyahu called his security cabinet into special session to consider imposing economic sanctions against the new Palestinian administration.

The Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, championed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, are aimed at ending decades of conflict.

Both sides are at odds over Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well Israel's demand that Palestinians recognise it as a Jewish state.

Mr Kerry has raised his concerns with Mr Abbas about the role of Hamas, which the US, Israel, and the European Union consider a terrorist group.

Mr Abbas has described the administration as being made up of politically unaffiliated technocrats.

Both Fatah and Hamas see benefits to a unity pact.

A strict blockade imposed by neighbours Israel and Egypt has left Hamas struggling to prop up Gaza's economy and pay its 40,000 employees, while Mr Abbas wants to bolster his domestic support.

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