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Scores of Fatah supporters demonstrated outside the Palestinian Legislative Council here on Wednesday in protest against the new speaker's decision to freeze all appointments and promotions approved by his predecessor following the January 25 parliamentary election.
The demonstration, the first of its kind since the Hamas-dominated council was sworn in over the weekend, is an indication of growing tensions between Hamas and Fatah in the aftermath of the election.
Chanting anti-Hamas slogans, the protesters marched from the center of the city toward the council building. They called on the new speaker, Aziz Dweik, to rescind his decision to freeze the appointments and promotions of several PLC employees.
Members of Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, joined the demonstration along with dozens of Palestinian Authority and PLC employees.
A spokesman for the Aksa Martyrs Brigades said his group would not sit on the side and watch as the new council fires employees.
"We will strike with an iron fist against the heads of parliament, who are behaving like thugs," he warned.
the right to take such measures against PLC employees because they don't represent any political faction.
On Tuesday, Ibrahim Khraisheh, secretary-general of the council, complained that Dweik used force to evict him from his office inside the council. Khraisheh was appointed to the post shortly after the election. He said Dweik and 10 men stormed his office and removed him.
Former PLC speaker Rouhi Fatouh decided after the election on a series of promotions and appointments in the council. The decision drew sharp criticism from Hamas, which dubbed the moves illegal.
The PLC has over 560 employees, most of whom are affiliated with Fatah. The employees fear that the new Hamas speaker and his staff are planning to replace them with Hamas activists.
PLC secretary Mahmoud al-Rumahi said that Dweik's decision was taken due to the latest "gratuitous" promotions. According to Rumahi, the former PLC speaker appointed Khraisheh three days before the new council was sworn in and without even consulting with the new speaker. He said another 20 PLC employees were promoted days before the new parliament was inaugurated.
"The latest decision is an internal affair and there's no reason why people should take to the streets and demonstrate," he said. He also denied that Dweik had used armed security guards to evict Khraisheh from his office.
In another sign of increased tensions between the two parties, the director of the PA's Voice of Palestine radio station, Yousef Qazaz, accused Rumahi of practicing "intellectual terrorism" by refusing to take questions from one of the station's broadcasters.
Rumahi, who was interviewed live on Voice of Palestine earlier in the day, accused a talk show presenter of being biased in favor of Fatah before ending the interview.
"The Voice of Palestine speaks for all Palestinians," Qazaz said. "We're not biased and we don't belong to any political faction. What Rumahi did constitutes a threat to democracy and is an aggression on the freedom of speech. This is tantamount to intellectual terrorism."