In a meeting hosted by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday, Abbas met Damascus-based heads of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the official Syrian Arab News Agency (Sana) said.

However, Abbas appeared unable to persuade the three factions to join a unity government.

The statements of rejection from Islamic Jihad and the PFLP come after a similar refusal from the Hamas movement, which has gained in popular support in recent months and is seen as a potent political rival to Abbas' Fatah faction.

Islamic Jihad refusal

"We have informed Abu Mazin (Abbas) of the position of Islamic Jihad which is not to participate in a government of national unity," said Ramadan Abu Shallah, the head of Islamic Jihad.

PFLP's Ahmad Jibril dismissed
an offer to join the government

"We have proposed a plan of creating a committee to preserve contact and to keep the understanding between the Palestinian movements and the Palestinian Authority," Shallah said in the Syrian capital.

Referring to the ceasefire resistance groups vowed to stick to earlier in the year, he added: "[Islamic] Jihad is committed to respecting it if the Israeli enemy also commits not to launch aggressions against the Palestinian people.

"But letting ourselves be massacred with our arms folded is impossible," he added.

Popular Front position

The PFLP's Damascus representative Maher Taher said "the possibility of the PFLP participating in the government is out of the question for the moment".

Hamas was at loggerheads with the Palestinian Authority earlier this week after shunning an offer to join the unity government, and vowed to resist any bid to disarm its members.

"Letting ourselves be massacred with our arms folded is impossible"

Ramadan Abu Shallah,
Islamic Jihad chief

"We will not participate in this government," Hamas chief Khalid Meshaal said on Tuesday.

Another round of meetings is expected between Abbas and the resistance groups.

Meanwhile, Abbas' visit, which began on Wednesday, is expected to reinforce an improvement in ties between Damascus and the Palestinian Authority.

Abbas discussed with the Syrian president "measures taken by the Palestinian Authority ... to build an independent state" and described "difficulties the Palestinian Authority has faced, particularly Israel's intransigence", Sana said.