Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

JERUSALEM – As part of a major truce prepared today, the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority agreed to release all Hamas prisoners held in West Bank jails, WND has learned.

The prisoner release, which includes terrorists responsible for attacks against Israelis, is set to take place May 16, the day Arabs refer to as the “Nakba” or the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding.

According to officials in both Hamas and the PA, the Islamist group was not asked to recognize the existence of Israel as a condition of signing of the unity accords.

Also, it was quietly agreed upon between the parties that the new Palestinian prime minister will be from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and must be assigned by Hamas, top Palestinian officials told WND.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in Cairo today to officially endorse the national unity deal.

Mashaal used the occasion to state, “Our common enemy is Israel. Israel must be fought through force and diplomacy.”

“The only campaign we have is against Israel,” he added. “We want an independent, sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

Abbas opened his speech with a moment of silence for “martyrs,” including Palestinian suicide bombers who died while killing Jews.

At the ceremony, Abbas declared: “We announce to Palestinians that we turn forever the black page of division.”

“We announce the good news from Egypt, which has always carried its national and historical responsibility towards the Palestinian people. Four black years have affected the interests of Palestinians. Now we meet to assert a unified will,” he said.

Abbas said that the international community has “come together to indicate the Palestinian people’s right to an independent state.”

“The Palestinian state needs to be born this year,” he said.

Abbas was referring to a PA plan for the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state by the United Nations.

The controversial U.N. resolution seeks to recognize a Palestinian state in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as well as the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, purportedly including the Temple Mount.

WND reported two weeks ago the Obama administration is concerned that support for a U.N. declaration of Palestinian statehood could have a negative impact on the president’s 2012 re-election bid.

A PA official said the White House has asked the PA to take their U.N. state request directly to the international body’s General Assembly, the only U.N. organ in which all member nations have equal representation, instead of to the Security Council, where the U.S. holds veto power.

U.S. funds to pay Hamas salaries?

Meanwhile, according to sources in both the PA and Hamas speaking to WND today, the unity deal not only leaves Hamas in full security control of the Gaza Strip, but it paves the way for tens of thousands of Hamas security forces to be placed on the PA payroll.

The sources said a common apparatus will be created to pay both Hamas and Fatah forces after the first year of the unity deal.

WND reported in March that between 15,000 and 20,000 Hamas forces will be placed on the PA’s payroll if a unity deal is forged.

The PA is funded in large part by the U.S. and Europe.

The technical explanation being given by PA sources is that the Palestinian leadership believes it is better to maintain one major financial apparatus to pay all security forces, instead of having a separate governmental system in Gaza run by Hamas.

Monthly salaries of Hamas security officers in Gaza typically range from between 800 and 1,500 shekel, or between $244 and $421.

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