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One Palestinian billionaire's vision of unity

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"This is what I've wanted for a long time. We want to be the conscience of the people. We want to say to the government, to both sides, you are making a mistake," he explains. "We met many people in all the districts of the West Bank, and they are all in favor of this."

The move could not come at a better moment. On Thursday, violence flared again as the Israeli air force struck targets in the Gaza Strip, killing seven Palestinians, including the son of a hard-line Hamas leader. In recent days, Hamas militants have been pounding the Israel town of Sderot with dozens of missiles and rockets, killing an Israeli on Wednesday, and on Thursday, injuring the bodyguard of an Israeli cabinet minister. In the past two days, 17 Palestinians have been killed.

At the root of the initiative is a recent poll, taken by Bir Zeit University, which shows that more than 80 percent of Palestinians want to see Hamas and Fatah reconcile and move on together. Taking this as its mandate, the forum will do what is "difficult, but doable," Masri says. Relations between Fatah and Hamas, hostile for a few years, were severed when Hamas overran the Gaza Strip last June in a violent coup. Militants connected to Hamas, which swept to power in a landslide election just over two years ago, attacked all security forces and posts in Gaza connected to Fatah.

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