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Home >> World
UPDATED: 09:41, June 11, 2006
News Analysis: Israeli offensives might weaken Abbas' status
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The latest Israeli military escalation against the Gaza Strip, which killed 15 people on Thursday and Friday, might weaken status of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who called for a referendum on a document drafted by prisoners in Israeli jails, analysts said on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, Abbas announced that the referendum will be held on July 26 in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

The announcement came just one day after an Israeli shelling killed a whole family of seven people, four of them children under seven, at a northern Gaza Strip beach.

Thursday night, Jamal Abu Samhadana, leader of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip, was killed in an Israeli airstrike.

"This Israeli escalation is strengthening Hamas and other militant groups in a way or another. I am afraid that the aim of the Israeli escalation is to strengthen Hamas at the expense of President Abbas," said Ashraf al-Ajrami, a Palestinian political analyst specialized in Israeli affairs.

Many Palestinians believe that it has become obvious that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad (Holy War) are gaining the people's support when the Israeli army escalates military actions against the Palestinian people and militants.

"If we assume that the referendum aims to ask the people whether they recognize the state of Israel or not, and Israel at the same time escalates military actions against the people, I think the people in the end would vote against it," al-Ajrami said.

He said that one of major factors that strengthened Hamas before the January election was the assassination of Hamas leaders Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Ranteesi in 2004.

Other analysts believe that it is an interest for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to keep Hamas so powerful and keep the Palestinian National Authority.

"Olmert has a plan to draw the final border of Israel and he wants to implement the plan unilaterally without having a Palestinian partner to reach a permanent solution through peaceful negotiations," said Khaled Abu Muhadi, a Palestinian student who studies political sciences.

He said that Israel does not recognize Hamas and refuses to hold any contact with the Hamas-led government, "Therefore Olmert would be the happiest and relaxed person to implement his plan, as Hamas is not his partner."

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman, said that Hamas had made its mind to reject the referendum as the Palestinian people are facing difficult conditions, "There was legislative election on Jan. 25 and the people said their words."

"Rejecting the referendum does not mean that Hamas rejects all of the document. There are so many positive points in the document and there are some points that need to be dealt with through dialogue," he said.

Hamas leaders said that the document could be a good basis for a comprehensive dialogue, while Prime Minister Ismail Haneya said, "Through dialogue, we can agree on a joint national political program and form a coalition government."

Palestinian observers said that the question of holding a referendum on July 26 will be a test about who is more powerful in the Palestinian public opinion and who is politically stronger.

"There is an overwhelming popular support for Hamas in the Palestinian territories, mainly in the Gaza Strip, and support is strong in the parliament and the government. All will be against Abbas' call for referendum," said Jabber Abu Eitta, a Palestinian political observer.

"What could Abbas do is to gain support from Fatah supporters, but they were disappointed at the Fatah movement, and that is why Fatah was defeated by its rival Hamas in the legislative election, " he said.

Source: Xinhua


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