TEL AVIV – The so-called military wing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization has formed a common operations room with the Hamas terrorist organization, according to information obtained by WND.

Sources inside the Palestinian militant apparatus told WND of a meeting that took place last week in the Gaza Strip city of Khan Yunis between Hamas’ so-called military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam, and the Gaza branch of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the “military wing” of Abbas’ U.S.-backed Fatah party.

At the meeting, the decision was taken to open what the sources called a common operations room. The sources claimed the cooperation was aimed at fending off any Israeli operation inside the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has recently increased its firing of rockets into nearby Israeli population centers.

Just last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Israel may respond with “great force” if the Hamas rocketing continues.

The stepped up Hamas-Fatah cooperation comes as the PA has been engaged in an intense effort to convince the Hamas terrorist organization to join it in a new unity government.

Last week, WND reported that in a desperate bid to sign a unity government with Hamas, Abbas offered to release from prison scores of Hamas terrorists responsible for attacks against Jews.

Abbas offered to release a large number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from Palestinian jails if Hamas agrees to forge a unity government, according to informed Palestinian security sources.

While Abbas did not agree to release those responsible directly for killing Israelis, he told Hamas he would release terrorists involved in planning and aiding in attacks, such as by providing logistical support or weapons to the attackers, the sources said.

This marks the latest in a series of PA concessions to Hamas.

Abbas last week met Hamas leaders in the West Bank to discuss a possible unity deal with the terrorist group.

WND reported two weeks ago the PA has quietly offered to place between 15,000 and 20,000 of Hamas’ forces in Gaza on official PA salary if Hamas joins in a unity government.

The technical explanation being given by PA sources is that the Palestinian leadership feels it 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.

Aside from an accommodation on salaries, the PA is ready to give Hamas full official security control of the Gaza Strip if the Islamist organization agrees to form a unity government, according to a PA official who previously spoke to WND.

In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza from the PA and since then has maintained a de facto government in the territory. While Hamas largely controls Gaza, the PA still has militias there that are influential in key areas.

The PA official, who spoke to WND on condition of anonymity, said that Hamas would not need to recognize the existence of Israel as a precondition for entering a new unity government.

He said Hamas is being asked to commit itself to previous Palestinian agreements, which would include those signed with Israel, without actually recognizing the specific agreements with Israel. The PA official admitted the request appears to be contradictory.

The PA official told WND that recent developments in Egypt and the greater Arab world force the Palestinian leadership to take a public position against the U.S.

“The Obama administration’s abandonment of (U.S. ally President Hosni) Mubarak in Egypt sent a big sign to the moderate Arab world that we can no longer depend on American support,” said the official.

The official further argued that popular sentiment on the Palestinian streets dictates the PA must orient itself away from the U.S.

Indeed, the PA’s official media outlets have been railing against the U.S. in recent weeks, with 28 PA municipalities even announcing boycotts of “the American consulate, its diplomats, and the American institutions in Jerusalem,” according to a translation by Palestinian Media Watch.

In direct response to the protests that already toppled regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, the PA two weeks ago announced it finally will hold long-delayed parliamentary and presidential elections in September.

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