AP Interview: Hamas No. 2 says he'll move to Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) Islamic militant group Hamas' No. 2 leader said in an interview Tuesday that he hopes to move from his base in Egypt to his native Gaza Strip following the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

Moussa Abu Marzouk also told The Associated Press that reconciliation efforts between his movement and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would continue despite a new flare-up of tensions between the long-time rivals.

"There are problems, (but) it's not a crisis," said Abu Marzouk, 63. "The reconciliation is ahead of us and the split is behind us. We are heading this way because reconciliation is the choice of our people. We have taken real steps and will continue."

Abu Marzouk was born in Gaza's Rafah refugee camp, but left the territory in 1968 and spent most of his life in exile. In the 1990s, he served as the top Hamas leader, but was then replaced by the current No. 1, Khaled Mashaal.

Abu Marzouk has been based in the Egyptian capital of Cairo since top Hamas leaders in exile left their long-time headquarters in Syria in 2011, a few months after the start of the civil war there, and found refuge in different Middle Eastern capitals.

Abu Marzouk, who has been visiting Gaza since April for reconciliation talks, said he now plans to move to Gaza permanently.

"With God's help, I intend to stay (in Gaza)," said Abu Marzouk, speaking at a seaside hotel in Gaza City. "Most likely, I will be based in Gaza."

Abu Marzouk was key to negotiations with Abbas' Fatah movement on the composition of the unity government of technocrats that was formed last week and has the backing of both sides.

The new Cabinet is to administer both Gaza, seized by Hamas in 2007, and the autonomous areas of the West Bank.

However, the road to reconciliation has been bumpy, with key disputes unresolved. Hamas remains the de facto power on the ground in Gaza while the internationally backed Abbas is the main conduit for vital international aid.

In recent days, tensions have escalated.

In Gaza, Hamas forced banks to remain closed for the past week because of a dispute with Abbas over salaries for its loyalists. More than 40,000 employees worked for the Hamas government in Gaza, and it's not clear if they will retain their jobs or who will pay them in the meantime.

Abu Marzouk said Qatar promised help and that the head of the Palestinian unity government, Rami Hamdallah, has been invited for talks to the Gulf state. "There should be an urgent payment to resolve the problem of the salaries," he said.