(photo credit: AP)
Damascus-based Palestinian factions on Saturday rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to call early presidential and parliamentary elections, calling it illegal.
"The factions confirm their oppositions to the call to hold early parliamentary elections because there is no justification for it and it is illegal and lacks real Palestinian consensus," said a statement read by Maher Taher, a leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The statement called for renewed talks on forming a national unity government and for an independent investigation into the shooting attack on Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday.
Hamas has accused an ally of Abbas, Gaza strongman Mohammed Dahlan, of being behind the alleged attempt to kill Haniyeh of Hamas. In the incident outside the Gaza-Egypt border terminal, shots were fired in the direction of Haniyeh's entourage late Thursday, killing one of his bodyguards. Dahlan has denied involvement and Fatah-allied security officials have portrayed it as random fire, part of a chaotic confrontation between security forces and Hamas gunmen in the area that day.
The statement read by Taher was issued following a meeting attended by Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah and Farouk Kaddoumi, the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's political wing.
Earlier Saturday, Abbas said he decided to call elections at the earliest possible date because coalition talks with Hamas have failed and the Palestinians find themselves in a deep crisis.
But the leaders' meeting in Damascus stressed that the statement issued reflected the position of 10 Palestinian factions and not just that of Hamas.
"We had hoped to hear a more responsible speech, one that does not take the Palestinian situation to the unknown," said Shallah of Abbas' speech.
Shallah also urged Hamas and Fatah to reach an agreement, saying Abbas' call for elections was "lawless."
"We believe that such a call will regrettably take us to the unknown," Shallah said in an interview from Damascus with the pan-Arab Al-Jazeera satellite station.
Mashaal warned against any unilateral moves.
"Any step outside the context of the laws is rejected by us all and this is not just the position of Hamas," he said. "The position that we have expressed today is the position of the 10 Palestinian factions whose history, performance and weight on the ground is well known."
The statement issued Saturday also called for a return to a truce agreement reached in Cairo in March 2005 and the need to rebuild the PLO and reactivate its institutions. An umbrella group, the PLO has traditionally conducted foreign policy on behalf of the Palestinians, but it has not been very active since the 1993 Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement, which led to the Palestinians setting up their own government in Gaza and the West Bank.
The statement said Palestinian infighting was a "red line" that cannot be permitted under any circumstances.