Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, was expected to call a referendum of Palestinians after the collapse of 11th hour talks aimed at securing Hamas's agreement to a plan aspiring to a two-state deal with Israel.
Shortly before the midnight deadline set for Hamas to agree to a document authorising him to negotiate a Palestinian state along the pre-occupation 1967 borders with Israel, Mr Abbas's office declared that he would set a date for a referendum after a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation today.
Mr Abbas said earlier he was not prepared to make changes to the document agreed by a group of prisoners from Hamas and the rival Fatah faction, declaring: "If anyone wants to amend this document, then we will not reach any results." The failure of the talks came after a day of renewed outbreaks of violence in Gaza.
Israel last night killed two men, who the military said were militants from the Popular Resistance Committees, in a missile attack on Jebaliya refugee camp next to Gaza city . The army said the main target of the attack, and one of the dead men, Majdi Hamad, had been involved in an attempted attacks on the Karni cargo crossing in December and April.
Several dozen Hamas gunmen stormed an office of Palestine TV in Khan Younis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, where employees said the militants had fired bullets into broadcasting equipment, shouting accusations that the station favoured Fatah, the faction defeated by Hamas in last January's elections.
Earlier a Hamas member was reported killed and two relatives, including an eight year old girl, injured when a bomb exploded outside his house in the Jebaliya camp.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, the ally of Mr Abbas who has been leading talks with Hamas, warned that the faction might resort to "blackmail, using more violence" to disrupt the referendum, but added: "It is now the credibility of Mahmoud Abbas which is at stake. We cannot take a step backwards." The alternative was Israel's unilateral plan to withdraw from parts of the West Bank while annexing others, which he said would end all hope of a viable Palestinian state. "We don't have the luxury of time. We cannot wait for these people get wise," he said.
Abdel Aziz Dweik, the Hamas Speaker of the parliament, accused the US of inspiring the referendum and said that those voting had been four months without salaries. "You can't ask a hungry man 'what is your opinion?' He won't give his opinion in a free manner," he said. "We agreed the [prisoners document] was a valid ground for the dialogue. But now the President says take it or leave it. This goes against what we agreed."
Yesterday's outbreaks of violence followed the earlier fatal shooting of the pregnant wife of a Hamas militant by gunmen said by medics to belong to the Fatah-dominated Preventative Security Services.Reuse content