The two main rival Palestinian factions have signed an accord designed to end seven years of sometimes violent division, paving the way for elections later in the year and the formation of a unity government within weeks.
The move, after a day of talks between Hamas and Fatah in Gaza that lasted until three in the morning, comes less than a week before the expiry of the deadline for US-sponsored peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on 29 April and is certain to complicate US efforts to seek another nine-month extension to those talks. Israel immediately responded by saying the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was moving to peace with Hamas instead of peace with Israel. "He has to choose," said the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. "Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace, so far he hasn't done so."
After the agreement was announced, Israel cancelled a planned session of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. It also launched an air strike on a site in the north of the Gaza Strip, wounding 12 people including children, which underscored the deep mutual suspicion and hostility that persists.