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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
Factions meet to coordinate intifada
Israeli soldier in Ramallah
Israeli re-occupation shows the intifada has failed

Palestinian factions have been holding talks in Gaza to try and forge a common position on their uprising against Israel.

The effort has taken on urgency since Israel's re-occupation of West Bank towns - a clear sign that the armed intifada has failed.


The crucial problem is that Hamas wants to continue attacks in Israel

Throughout the uprising, the deeply divided factions have been unable to unite around one policy, and they are running into obstacles now with Islamic groups.

It is a formidable challenge: trying to forge a consensus that takes in everyone from the secular leftists to the Islamists.

Originally, the goal was to get an agreement to end attacks on civilians in Israel.

Hamas was considering that option until Israel assassinated its military commander.

Hamas 'debate'

Now the draft political policy is more modest. It says the aim of the intifada is a state in the territories captured by Israel in 1967 - the West Bank and Gaza.

It also says there should be harmony between that aim and the means to achieve it, the implication being that resistance should be carried out only in the occupied territories and not in Israel.

Participants say a Hamas representative initially approved the document, but now the group is demanding changes.

Hamas militant
Hamas wants to continue attacks in Israel
Most significantly, it does not want mention of a state restricted to the West Bank and Gaza - it wants more ambiguous language.

This is in line with Hamas's policy of not recognising Israel.

But observers say there is an internal debate about accepting a two-state solution, especially between the more pragmatic political leaders in Gaza, and the leadership in exile.

Squaring the circle

Some of the factions say they cannot accept the Hamas revisions.

They say then it would be impossible to mobilise international, including Arab, support.

The negotiations reflect the difficulty of trying to unite the Palestinians around one policy, something they have failed to do so far.

Observers say the crucial problem is that Hamas wants to continue attacks in Israel because this has increased its popular support.

The other factions understand that actions like suicide bombings have cost them crucial international backing.

The discussions in Gaza are an attempt to square that circle.


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03 Dec 01 | profiles
13 Aug 02 | Middle East
12 Aug 02 | Middle East
14 Aug 02 | Middle East
10 Aug 02 | Middle East
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