Members of radical Palestinian movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad have joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians on the international arena, the Ma'an news agency said.
Founded in 1964, PLO has the UN observer status and comprises ten member movements with Fatah being the major political force. Throughout it 24-year history, Hamas had refused to join or recognize the organization and its international status.
Leaders of several Palestinian political groups, including Hamas and Fatah, agreed on Thursday to take part in "activating and reconstructing" the PLO.
"We're now in the phase of national dialogue," an Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh told Ma'an. "We're in the interim leadership framework, which will handle restructuring the PLO, and we hope to succeed."
The Palestinian National Initiative (PNI), a political movement advocating social democracy and secularism and viewing itself as a "democratic third force" opposed to Fatah and Hamas, also joined the PLO.
Head of the PNI Mustafa Barghouthi called it "a historic day in the lives of the Palestinian people with the development of a united national leadership as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PNI joined the PLO's leadership framework."
Israel slammed the move as yet another obstacle in the peace process.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli premier, said that if Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas "embraces Hamas, if he walks toward Hamas, he is walking away from peace."