The prisoners were released as a gesture of goodwill in an effort to strengthen the moderate Fatah against the more-hardline Hamas [BBC backgrounder], which violently took over the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder] in June. Palestinian infighting between the Islamist-Hamas and the secular-Fatah has established two parallel Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas, which was elected as the ruling party [JURIST report] of the Palestinian Authority in early 2006, has refused to distance itself from terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation-state, resulting in increased ostracism by the United States, the European Union, and Israel. AP has more.
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