In what some observers are viewing as yet another attempt at reconciliation, the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement has called for a dialogue with the Palestinian Authority.
“We must immediately start in comprehensive, serious national dialogue that will be binding to all influential groups in the Palestinian arena,” Hamas said in a statement this week.
The militant organization also called for the release of all Hamas activists from Palestinian prisons, according to the statement.
In the wake of Hamas’ repeated suicide attacks against Israelis, Palestinian police have cracked down with increasing severity on the movement, arresting many of its military and political leaders.
After the Aug. 21 suicide bombing of a Jerusalem bus by a member of Hamas, Palestinian police arrested some 30 Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip.
Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat has made a series of attempts in the past to reach agreements with Hamas, which vehemently opposes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
In a series of a unofficial agreements reached with the Palestinian Authority in recent months, Hamas promised not to launch suicide attacks from areas under Palestinian control.
And, indeed, those responsible for the Aug. 21 suicide attack came from the West Bank, not Gaza.
New speculation of a pending agreement emerged this week, following reports that Israel had allowed two Hamas leaders from the Gaza Strip to meet over the weekend with the group’s jailed spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.
The reports said the meeting had been arranged through the intervention of senior Israeli and Palestinian officials.
During the visit, Yassin reportedly called for an end to terrorist attacks against Israelis.
Israeli security sources reportedly expressed doubt that an agreement between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority would be effective, saying that it would also have to be binding on Izz a-Din al-Kassam, the military faction of Hamas.