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Hamas calls emergency debate on Palestinian referendum plan

[JURIST] The Hamas party [ICT backgrounder], which controls the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website], launched a challenge to a referendum [JURIST report] proposed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], calling an emergency debate Monday on whether a referendum is legal under Palestinian law. Abbas set a date of July 26 [JURIST report] for a vote on a "national reconciliation" document [text; summary], which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state that implicitly recognizes Israel. Leading Islamists of Hamas have accused Abbas of orchestrating a coup by calling the referendum, which will be Palestine's first referendum and will bypass the Hamas-led government. While parliament speaker Aziz Dweik [JCMC profile], a senior member of Hamas, stated that the referendum has no legal basis, Abbas said that nothing in Palestinian Basic Law [PDF text] prevents a referendum.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert [BBC profile] has dismissed the referendum, calling it an "internal game" that will not affect the frozen peace process between Israel and Palestine. Abbas had previously set a deadline for Hamas to accept the national reconciliation document, threatening to hold a referendum if Hamas refused to do so. Surveys indicate that most Palestinians support the document [CFR interview]. AFP has more.

4:06 PM ET - In reaction to an attack by Hamas gunmen on the Preventive Security forces, Palestinian security forces loyal to Abbas and his Fatah party, members of the security forces on Monday opened fire on the Palestinian parliament and Cabinet buildings in the West Bank, storming the buildings and setting them on fire. AP has more.

4:54 PM ET - AP is now reporting that the Fatah gunman have said they have kidnapped a Hamas lawmaker.

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