Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hamas Digs In to Fight Israel Referendum

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The Palestinians' Hamas-dominated parliament mobilized on Monday to try to block President Mahmoud Abbas' efforts to hold a national referendum on a proposal that would implicitly recognize Israel's right to exist.

Hamas' charter calls for Israel's destruction, and the Hamas-led government has resisted Abbas' attempts to persuade it to endorse the proposal, which calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The referendum debate is taking place amid escalating violence between Israel and Hamas, complicating Abbas' efforts.

At the parliament session Monday, Hamas lawmakers challenged the legality of Abbas' decree on Saturday announcing the July 26 referendum, though it was unclear whether they would be able to muster the necessary two-thirds majority to shoot it down.

Abbas, of the rival Fatah party, announced the vote despite an explosion on a Gaza beach Friday that killed eight civilians and inflamed passions against Israel. Palestinian said the deaths were caused by an Israeli artillery shell, but Israel has suggested its army might not have been responsible and said it was conducting an investigation.

Abbas' referendum plans suffered a further setback on Sunday when a Hamas prisoner who co-authored the proposal withdrew his support for the document.

Abdel Khaleq Natche accused Abbas of exploiting the document for political gain. He and other Palestinian prisoners held by Israel enjoy great clout in Palestinian society.

Before the beach attack, opinion polls had shown widespread public support for the referendum. There have been no surveys since.