According to a June 9 Bloomberg report, Hamas has "vowed to renew attacks" on Israeli forces in the wake of the deaths of at least 12 Palestinians during an Israeli artillery bombardment of the Gaza Strip. In March last year Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire and refrained from attacking Israeli targets.
The artillery assault came a day before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was expected to order a referendum on the "Prisoners' Document" on national reconciliation. Abbas had presented the Hamas-dominated PA with an ultimatum to adopt the document or face a referendum. On June 11, Euronews.net reported that Abbas had called the referendum for July 26.
According to the London Daily Telegraph, Jamal Abu Samhadana, a member of Hamas and a high-ranking Palestinian Authority interior ministry adviser, and three other Palestinians were killed on June 8 during Israeli air strikes that also targeted the Gaza Strip.
The Prisoners' Document was drafted in mid-May by jailed Palestinian militants, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti; Hamas's Abdel Khalek al Natsheh; Abdel Rahim Malouh, the deputy head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; Mustafa Badarneh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; and Islamic Jihad's Sheikh Bassam al Sa'di.
The document contains 18 points on "national reconciliation". It calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, and the recognition of the right of Palestinian refugees to return. It also calls for acts of armed resistance to take place only inside the Occupied Territories, for the integration of Hamas and Islamic Jihad into the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the "legitimate and sole representative" of Palestinians, and for "negotiations" with Israel to be the domain of the PLO and the PA president.
A June 6 article in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper quoted a Hamas spokesperson who "said that Hamas had already accepted about 90 percent of the Prisoners' Document, and only two problems remained: an article dealing with the PLO, and another relating to recognition of international decisions".
Ha'aretz reported that Barghouti, one of the document's chief architects, is currently in negotiation with Khaled Meshal, Hamas's chief leader in Damascus. Representatives of both Fatah and Hamas have sent delegations to Yemen to discuss the document further.
Abbas has used the document to further Fatah's attempts to regain control of the Palestinian political agenda after Hamas won control of the PA. By attempting to make Hamas accept the Prisoners' Document with no changes, Abbas and Fatah are attempting to force Hamas to recognise Israel and to accept Fatah's discredited attempts under the Oslo Accords to negotiate a two-state solution with Israel.
The Prisoners' Document, however, has also been rejected by Israel and its recently elected prime minister, Ehud Olmert. According to Olmert, the document is not the "basis for anything". Olmert instead intends to pursue Sharon's policy of unilateralism, claiming that there is no Palestinian "partner for peace".
From Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2006.
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