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Russia Convening Palestinian Factions in Moscow Feb. 26

Russia is convening a Feb. 26 meeting in Moscow of Palestinian factions to try to move them toward political unity, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov on Feb. 19. He said Russia had invited “all Palestinian representatives who are located in different countries, in particular in Syria and Lebanon, other countries in the region.” Russian media have identified 14 Palestinian factions invited, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Bogdanov also said Russia views the PLO as “the sole legal representative of the Palestinian people.”

A media release posted on the Foreign Ministry website reported that Palestinians had requested the Russian intervention, in which Bogdanov had telephone discussions with a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Central Committee of Fatah Azzam Ahmad and Deputy Chairman of the Hamas Politburo Moussa Abu Marzouk. “At the same time, the Russian side confirmed its unchanged principled position in support of Palestinian unity on the political platform of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” the release concluded.

As Russia moved to convene this urgent discussion, Israel, through opposition war cabinet member Benny Gantz, announced a deadline for release of all hostages by Hamas, and a date—March 10, the beginning of Ramadan—for an Israeli military invasion of the city of Rafah, where two-thirds of Gazan Palestinians are now huddled in tents in the streets, if Hamas doesn’t comply. Speaking to people from an American Jewish organization in Jerusalem on Feb. 18, Gantz said, “The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know—if by Ramadan our hostages are not home, the fighting will continue everywhere, to include the Rafah area.”