Hamas calls first parliament session since seizing Gaza

Only 28 of legislatures 132 members took their seats, another 7 joined in via conference call.

haniyeh 298.88 (photo credit: )
haniyeh 298.88
(photo credit: )
Lawmakers from Hamas convened a session of the Palestinian parliament Wednesday for the first time since the group violently seized Gaza from the rival Fatah movement last June. With around 40 Hamas parliamentarians in Israeli jails and Fatah members staying away, only 28 of the legislature's 132 members took their seats in Gaza City's seafront parliament building. Another seven took part by conference call from the West Bank abroad and lawmakers present - all from, or backed by, Hamas - said 35 of their jailed colleagues had appointed proxies, bringing the total number to 70, just over the 67 required for a quorum. Fatah said the tactic was not legal. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the deposed prime minister, opened the session, saying it was part of his group's efforts to restore "democratic life" among Palestinians. "The Israeli occupation in collaboration with Palestinian parties wants to curtail Palestinian life and paralyze democratic institutions," Haniyeh told the session. The Islamic group swept the 2006 parliamentary elections, winning 74 seats, but was shunned by Israel and the international community for its refusal to recognize the Jewish state or renounce violence. After Hamas overran Gaza in June, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah fired Hamas from government and formed his own Cabinet in the West Bank, and parliamentary activity ground to a standstill. Haniyeh said his group sought to mend relations between the two rivals by convening Wednesday's session, but Fatah said it was not invited. "This is not a sign of good intentions," Fatah lawmaker Abdullah Abdullah told The Associated Press by telephone from Ramallah. "This is a consolidation of the separation between Gaza and the West Bank."