Newspapers in the Palestinian territories and Israel reveal a deep unease that the conflict between rival Palestinian factions could descend into chaos following President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to call new elections.
Palestinian commentators are split between those who consider fresh elections justified and those who view them as a coup against a government which only recently won a legitimate election.
In Israel, fears are expressed that the Palestinians are heading for major violence, with one commentator suggesting the possibility that targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders could resume.
A Pan Arab daily speaks openly of civil war between Hamas and Fatah.
EDITORIAL IN PALESTINIAN AL-QUDS
President Abbas could have called for a parliamentary election only, but he went for the most difficult option and decided on a presidential election too. He wanted to send a message that the election was not specifically aimed at Hamas. We think that he has the right to dissolve parliament and to let the people have their say. So why are there some who oppose elections if they are sure of public support?
COMMENTATOR IN PALESTINIAN AL-HAYAT AL-JADIDAH
I find it strange that Hamas rejects going to the people to find a way out of the crisis. What we are suffering from today is a double authority with a presidency and a government each with its own programme. The people must have their say and force the rivals to reach an agreement. Otherwise, they will lack legitimacy.
HANI HABIB IN PALESTINIAN AL-AYYAM
This decision is an attempt to exert pressure on Hamas to find a way out of the tragedy. This pressure is misplaced. Everyone, including the president, knows that holding early elections constitutes a coup against the legitimacy as embodied by the parliamentary elections that brought the Hamas government to power.
AHMAD ABD-AL-RAHAMAN IN PALESTINIAN AL-AYYAM
It is important that Hamas understands that the balance of power right now is in Israel's favour. The talk about a 10-year truce would only leave Israel free to build more settlements and continue to turn Jerusalem into a Jewish city. There is a need for an alternative programme which will check this expansion, a national programme of independence, not a Hamas programme.
COMMENTATOR IN PAN ARAB AL-SHARQ AL-AWSAT
We are witnessing the first Palestinian civil war, something that no one would have ever conceived. This chaos is of no advantage to Hamas or the Palestinian citizen, or the whole region. It only serves the interests of Israel and Iran.
GUY BECHUR IN ISRAEL'S YEDIOT AHARONOT
Tension between the two camps is immense and activists in each organisation are eager for battle and arming themselves with whatever they can lay their hands on. Events in the field will oblige [Abbas] to carry through his announcement to hold elections and the result will be a general explosion.
DANNY RUBINSTEIN IN ISRAEL'S HA'ARETZ
Abbas's speech in Ramallah was one of a man preparing for battle. The chairman did not say when he intends to issue an order dissolving the cabinet and when he intends to hold early elections. Everyone knows why: Fatah, in its various components, is not ready for a campaign against Hamas and needs time to prepare. Fatah is headed by men aged 70 and over who refuse to give up their roles or the benefits they enjoy.
AMIR RAPAPORT IN CENTRE-RIGHT MA'ARIV
No insurance company in the world would be willing to insure the life of Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. An analysis of the events of the last few days indicate his life is in real danger and that after he escaped an assassination attempt by a Palestinian assassin at the end of last week he could be a target for liquidation by Israel. The [Israeli] security establishment thinks the most efficient and proven way to deter Hamas is targeted killings of its leaders. If Hamas gives Israel a sufficiently good excuse, the killings could resume.
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