Thousands of Hamas militiamen are expected to be recruited into the Palestinian Authority security forces under an agreement that was reached between Hamas and Fatah activists in Gaza City on Wednesday. This would be the first time that Hamas militiamen are enlisted into the PA security forces, which consists largely of Fatah members. The new units are even expected to integrate members of both movements. The latest agreement was reached with the help of Egyptian diplomats and security officials, who held marathon talks with Hamas and Fatah leaders to persuade them to end the daily clashes in the Gaza Strip. Following the talks, which were attended by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the two sides agreed to withdraw their militiamen from the streets and public squares in the Gaza Strip as a first step toward easing tensions and restoring calm. The deal is seen as a great achievement for the Hamas-led government, which had openly challenged PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party by deploying its own "security force" in the streets of the Gaza Strip. Hamas's "backup force" comprises some 3,000 gunmen belonging to the movement's armed wing, Izzadin al-Kassam. Fatah leaders and security commanders have long been opposed to recruiting Hamas members to the security forces. The creation and subsequent deployment of the Hamas militia in the Gaza Strip had enraged Abbas and his loyalists in the security forces, who argued that the new force was illegal. Abbas is reported to have threatened to stay away from the Gaza Strip as long as the Hamas militiamen continued to patrol the streets. The Hamas force has been involved in numerous clashes with Fatah gunmen and members of the Preventative Security Service over the past few weeks. On Wednesday morning, three of its members were shot and seriously wounded by Fatah gunmen in Gaza City. Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the Hamas cabinet, announced after the talks that Haniyeh had instructed Interior Minister Said Siam to redeploy the Hamas security force so that its presence would not be felt in public places. He said the decision was the first step toward incorporating the Hamas militiamen into the PA security forces. Abdel Hakim Awad, a spokesman for Fatah in Gaza City, confirmed that the Hamas militiamen would be recruited to the security force under the agreement reached with the Egyptians' assistance. "They will join the official security forces after registering their names and receiving proper training," he said. "This is a good step in the right direction." Meanwhile, Abbas is expected to announce his decision to hold a referendum on a document drafted by some Palestinian prisoners on Saturday, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, told reporters in Ramallah. Abbas, who met in Ramallah with US Assistant Secretary of State David Welsh, said the US would not intervene in the referendum. "This is an internal Palestinian issue and no one has the right to interfere in it," he said. Abbas added that he would soon issue a presidential decree for holding the referendum, which is strongly opposed by Hamas and other Palestinian groups. "We have begun consultations with the Palestinian Central Elections Commission to set a date for the referendum," he said.