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April 30, 2017

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Palestinian unity government sworn in

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories--A long-awaited Palestinian unity government was sworn in before president Mahmud Abbas on Monday after a landmark reconciliation deal with the Islamist Hamas that has infuriated Israel.

Following a ceremony at the Muqataa presidential compound in Ramallah, Abbas hailed "the end" of a bitter and sometimes bloody divide between his Fatah movement and the rival Hamas that rules Gaza.

Hamas also applauded the new government as representing "all Palestinians," saying it was a "turning point" in its formerly bitter relations with Fatah.

Standing on a red carpet lined with Palestinian flags, the new ministers filed past, each laying their hand on either a Quran or a Bible to take the oath of office as Abbas stood by.

It is the first Palestinian unity government to take office in seven years, and the first fruits of a landmark reconciliation deal signed in April.

"Today, with the formation of a national consensus government, we announce the end of a Palestinian division that has greatly damaged our national case," said Abbas.

"This black page in history has been turned forever," he pledged in remarks echoed by the outgoing Hamas government in Gaza.

"We hail the national consensus government, which represents all the Palestinian people," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, describing it as "a turning point."

Hours earlier, a dispute over the fate of the prisoners' ministry raised fears the government could be delayed, but the issue was resolved after the parties agreed the portfolio would be held by prime minister Rami Hamdallah. He will also head the interior ministry.

'Government of one people'

The new cabinet, which was pieced together by Fatah and Hamas, counts 17 ministers, all of them political independents. Technocratic in nature, the new government will not have a political mandate.

Hamas's Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniya and his cabinet resigned, Hamas spokeswoman Israa al-Mudallal said, "paving the way for the new ministers of the consensus government."

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