Hamas official Aziz Dweik 311 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Fadi Arouri)
In yet another sign of mounting tensions between the two parties, the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday foiled an attempt by Hamas officials to hold a press conference in Ramallah to protest against PA Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
PA security officers sealed off the building of the PLC in the morning to stop the Hamas officials from holding the press conference. The officers also prevented journalists from approaching the building.
Some of the Hamas officials were stopped at checkpoints set up by the PA security forces in their villages and cities.
One of the officials banned from arriving in Ramallah is Aziz Dweik, the Hamas speaker of the PLC. He was stopped at a PA checkpoint east of Bethlehem and told to report to the Palestinian security forces in his city of Hebron.
“I received a phone call from the [PA] General Intelligence Service, and they told me to come to their headquarters in Hebron and to bring with me two personal photos,” Dweik said. “I told the officer: I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are. I told him I will come to only if they send me an official summons.”
Dweik said that the PA security forces who stopped him and his friends treated them with “rudeness and disrespect.”
A PA official told The Jerusalem Post
that Hamas was planning to challenge and embarrass Abbas by convening the PLC in violation of the law.
“Hamas claims that its representatives were only planning to hold a press conference, and this claim is not true,” the official said. “They were planning to hold a session of the council in Ramallah to challenge us.”
Last week, Abbas announced his decision to dissolve the PLC in a speech before PLO and Fatah officials in Ramallah. He said he was acting in accordance with a decision taken by the Palestinian Constitutional Court to dissolve the PLC, which has been inoperative since 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip. The decision has drawn sharp criticism from Hamas and other Palestinian groups.
The last election for the PLC was held in 2006, when the Hamas list, Change and Reform, won 74 seats out of the 132 seats. Dweik, a professor of urban geography who holds a PhD in regional and urban planning from the University of Pennsylvania, was elected that year as speaker of the PLC. Under PA law, the speaker of the PLC acts as interim president of the PA for two months if the president is unable to perform his duties.
The PLC’s four-year mandate expired in 2010. However, the ongoing dispute between Hamas and Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction has denied the Palestinians the opportunity to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.
Dweik and other Hamas officials said on Wednesday that Abbas’s decision to dissolve the PLC was in violation of the PA Basic Law, which stipulates that the council should continue to function until a new one is elected.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri strongly condemned as “a dangerous escalation” the PA’s decision to ban the press conference in Ramallah. “Abbas bears full responsibility for the consequences of this act of piracy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas members of the PLC held a session in the Gaza Strip for the first time since Abbas’s decision to dissolve the council.
Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official who also serves as deputy speaker of the PLC, said that the council will continue to operate despite Abbas’s “illegal” decision.
“The decision taken by Abbas and his court is null and void,” he argued. Bahr also pointed out that Abbas’s term in office had expired in 2009, and as such he was not authorized to dissolve the PLC.
The Hamas official called on Abbas to step down and allow Dweik, the speaker, to serve as interim president of the PA to prepare for new presidential and parliamentary elections. The decision to dissolve the PLC, he said, was “a national catastrophe” for the Palestinians.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces in the West Bank, said in response to the Hamas charges that his men were carrying out their duty of implementing the ruling of a Palestinian court when they barred the press conference. The PA security forces, he said, will not allow anyone pretending to be a member of the dissolved council to act against the law.
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