Hamas to soften stance on Israel, Muslim Brotherhood in policy document

Hamas, the militant group built around violent resistance to Israel, sought Monday to present a more moderate public face, taking its next shot in an intensifying struggle for leadership of the Palestinian cause and global recognition.

In a statement issued last week, Fatah said the "excessive" practices of the Israeli occupation, particularly by the Israeli Prison Service, meant Palestinians should "clash with the occupier everywhere across our homeland".

The release of a six-page document of general principles and policies, the product of two of internal deliberations, was announced in Doha, Qatar in a bid to moderate Hamas' three-decade old charter in the hopes of gaining greater global legitimacy.

The resulting deadlock led to mounting friction between Hamas and the rival Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, which culminated in its seizure of Gaza.

The document was unveiled in Doha by Hamas leader Khalid Mishal.

A copy of the program was distributed to journalists in Gaza who followed the news conference by video link. In the 2014 Gaza conflict, for example, more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, while 73 Israelis were killed, United Nations data shows. They are imprisoned for a number of offenses - including protesting, inciting violence and affiliation with groups Israel considers to be terrorist organizations.

Mohammad Abu Saada, a professor at Gaza's al-Azhar Univerity, described the new document as a bid to "accommodate Egyptian conditions and calm Egyptian fears" regarding Hamas connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt has classified as a "terror" group since democratically elected president Mohammad Morsi was ousted in a 2013 military coup.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

A large rally in support of the hunger strikers has been scheduled for Wednesday, the day Abbas is to meet President Donald Trump at the White House for the first time. In recent weeks, Abbas has threatened to exert financial pressure, including cutting wage payments and aid to Gaza, as a way of forcing Hamas to cede ground.

"I challenge everyone, all honorable people wherever they may be, to take on this challenge in solidarity with our heroic detainees until they gain their freedom", Assaf said in his video. It also said it would not recognize the Oslo Accords.

By implication, the document accepts that there will be another state entity outside these borders, even if it does not mention Israel.

The new Hamas document essentially brings the two sides closer to the same negotiating objective.

Mashaal is to step down as Hamas leader later this month.

Hamas warned against the move, saying that Abbas would not be able to win Gazans' loyalty by force, and that the strip is potentially explosive, with such moves by the PA risking leading to an explosion in all directions.

Laub reported from Ramallah, West Bank.