Hamas-led PLC forced to cancel session

Fatah gunmen threaten to storm building, beat new speaker Aziz Dweik.

fatah gunmen 298 88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
fatah gunmen 298 88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council was forced to postpone a session scheduled for Saturday in Ramallah after Fatah gunmen threatened to storm the building and beat the newly-appointed speaker, Aziz Dweik. A new session has been set for Monday, but sources close to Hamas said it too could be delayed because of increased threats by Fatah gunmen. On Thursday some 20 gunmen belonging to Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, arrived at the PLC compound and fired extensively into the air. The gunmen shouted slogans against Dweik, accusing him of trying to dismiss some Fatah- affiliated employees of the council. It was the second time since the new parliament was sworn in two weeks ago that Fatah gunmen had threatened to harm Dweik, who was appointed by Hamas. Tensions inside the council have been mounting ever since Dweik decided to freeze his predecessor's decision to appoint and promote several PLC employees just after Hamas won the January 25 parliamentary election. One of those affected by Dweik's decision is Ibrahim Khraisheh, who was appointed secretary-general of the PLC only days before the new parliament was sworn in. Khraisheh's appointment to the top job is seen by Hamas as an attempt by Fatah to maintain its control on the council. Khraisheh complained last week that the PLC speaker and his aides used force to evict him from his office. Khraisheh's supporters later organized a demonstration in front of the council together with scores of Fatah gunmen and demanded the resignation of Dweik. On Saturday Dweik lodged a complaint with the Palestinian Authority's attorney general against Khraisheh, accusing him of standing behind the gunmen who attacked the PLC offices last week. "What he did was very serious," Dweik said. "By firing into the air, the gunmen endangered the loves of all those who were inside the parliament." Dweik said he was astonished by the fact that an employee like Khraisheh could disrupt the entire work of the parliament. "The parliament represents the people," he added. "How can an employee prevent the speaker from assuming his responsibilities by resorting to threats and violence? The parliament has over 550 workers and we are all unable to work because of what this man and his friends are doing." Referring to Thursday's incident, Dweik said scores of masked gunmen surrounded the parliament compound in the afternoon and began firing into the air, sending employees and pedestrians fleeing for their lives. He said it was only by miracle that no one was killed or injured during the attack, which lasted for about 30 minutes. "I'm not afraid of these thugs," Dweik said, adding that he had phoned PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas during the attack to ask for his intervention. "President Abbas expressed his full support for me. He told me that I was the boss and that I was entitled to fire anyone I wanted. He said that any employee who does not accept my instructions should be fired and that the Palestinian security forces would help me." Dweik said he would not hesitate to resign if the Palestinian security forces were unable to enforce law and order in Ramallah. "I'm a university teacher and I have no problem finding a new job," he said. "If I'm unable to fulfill my duties, I will go back to my former job as a teacher. I hope we won't reach a situation like this. A state with no law and order is not a real state. No one is above the law."