Hamas lawmakers prevented from holding parliament session
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank- based administration Monday prevented a special parliamentary session - called by Hamas - from taking place, DPA reported.
The incident is seen as part of the ongoing power struggle between Abbas, of the secular Fatah party, and the Islamist movement ruling Gaza.
Staff at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Monday prevented some 31 Hamas lawmakers who had arrived at the complex from meeting in the plenary hall by keeping its doors locked.
They were thus unable to hold their session.
Speaking to reporters outside, PLC Speaker Aziz Dweik accused the Abbas administration of "obstructing reconciliation and parliamentary life by preventing the session from being held."
Dweik, of Hamas' Change and Reform Bloc, said he had called the extraordinary session to discuss Israel's February decision to include two ancient shrines in the occupied territories on a list of "national heritage sites."
He said the session was also supposed to discuss the ongoing attempt to reconcile Hamas and its rival Fatah.
The session was to be held through a video conference connection with parliament members in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas and his Fatah party, however, no longer recognize Dweik as parliament speaker. They argue that a new speaker must be elected every three years and that Hamas had refused a session to vote on a new speaker.
"We came here and found the doors to the hall where we were supposed to meet closed and the employees refused to open them saying they do not have orders from the president or other blocs to allow a session," Dweik said.
Dweik blamed other factions, mainly Fatah, the second largest bloc in the Hamas-dominated parliament, for obstructing the session.
Hamas members would hold the session at a different location and time, he vowed.
Parliament employees, for their part, accused Hamas of "seeking to start internal strife" by calling for what they termed an "illegal and unconstitutional session."
Security staff also kept journalists outside the compound's main gate.
The internal Palestinian power struggle erupted after Hamas won a landslide victory in elections held in January 2006, overthrowing Abbas' Fatah movement which had controlled Palestinian political life for more than 40 years.
But Fatah, with more than a third of the seats, has blocked Hamas from holding regular sessions since the elections.
The conflict peaked when Hamas militias overthrew Abbas' forces in Gaza in June 2007 to take actual control of the coastal strip. Abbas and his security forces remained in control of only the West Bank.
The deep differences between the rival camps this year prevented new presidential and legislative elections from taking place on their due date of January 24.
The Palestinian Central Council, an organ of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which created the Palestinian Authority and its institutions, earlier this year extended the term of both the president and the parliament indefinitely, until new elections can be held.
Apart from Hamas' West Bank lawmakers, no members of other factions, including Fatah, arrived for the special session Monday.