Agence France Presse (AFP)
October 6, 2008 - 8:00pm

Hamas members of parliament said on Monday that they will not recognise Mahmoud Abbas as president after January 8, a move that could sharpen the internal divisions plaguing the Palestinians.

“The legal term of President Abbas ends on January 8 and Abu Mazen [Abbas] will not remain president for a single minute after this date,” Hamas parliamentary leader Ahmed Bahar told AFP.

“On October 8, President Abbas must order the Central Committee for Elections to prepare for the next presidential election, which must take place on January 9,” he added, following a meeting of the Hamas parliamentary bloc.

The Islamist movement has had no contacts with Abbas since it drove his forces from Gaza in a week of bloody fighting in June 2007 but the movement still recognises him as the head of the Palestinian Authority.

When asked if Hamas would put forward a candidate to stand against Abbas, Bahar said: “All possibilities are under discussion.” Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 but has never fielded a presidential candidate.

The Palestinian constitution says presidential elections must be held every four years, which Hamas interprets to mean that Abbas’ term expires in 2009, since he was elected in January 2005.

Under their interpretation, if Abbas does not step down, the speaker of parliament, Hamas MP Aziz Dweik, would become acting president. Since Dweik is currently in an Israeli jail, Bahar would serve in his place.

Abbas’ supporters, however, cite a different provision of the constitution which says that presidential and parliamentary elections should be held together, which would extend Abbas’ term to January 2010.

Bahar said Palestinian politics was entering a “difficult” period but expressed hope that there would be reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’ Fateh Party, which have been bitterly divided since the Gaza takeover.

Representatives from the two main Palestinian factions are due to meet in Cairo on November 4 to try to agree on a national unity government.

The current 120-member Palestinian parliament includes 74 Hamas MPs, 30 of whom are in Israeli custody.

Israel and the West have in the past boycotted every Palestinian government that included Hamas, which they blacklist as a terrorist organisation.

Supply attempt thwarted

Egyptian police on Monday thwarted an attempt by Islamists to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip, stopping trucks full of supplies from crossing Egypt’s border, activists and police said.

Police detained leading activists in the border town of Rafah and in Cairo, where a bus was about to leave for the border from in front of the Journalists Syndicate, a popular gathering point for demonstrations.

The detainees include prominent Islamist activists Magdi Ahmed Hussein in Rafah and Mohammad Abdel Qaddous in Cairo, as well as at least 20 others, the sources said.

Hussein was part of a small advance party which slipped past police and reached Rafah. Police raided beach chalets in the north Sinai town of El Arish looking for other members of the anti-blockade campaign, security sources said.

The organisers had prepared trucks loaded with supplies but none of them were able to cross the Suez Canal, which divides the Sinai Peninsula from the rest of Egypt, the sources added.

Hussein told Reuters by telephone that he and 17 others had reached the Rafah crossing point but police detained him and five of his colleagues. The others escaped, he added.

Police prevented a similar attempt by Islamists to take supplies to Gaza on September 10.

The Egyptian government cooperates in the Israeli blockade, which is meant to undermine support among Gaza Palestinians for the Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the territory.

But many Egyptians, especially among Hamas’ allies in the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, oppose the government’s policy.

Palestine lawsuit

Palestinians are demanding $427,000 in compensation from Israel over its failure to remove Jewish settlers from a West Bank outpost built without Israeli government authorisation, a human rights group said on Monday.

The Israeli rights group, Yesh Din, described the lawsuit brought by five Palestinian landowners in a Jerusalem court as the first of its kind involving an unauthorised outpost.

In their petition for compensation, the landowners said the presence of 40 settler families at the Migron outpost in the occupied West Bank denied them access to their agricultural land.

According to the lawsuit, Israeli soldiers protect some 60 caravan homes at Migron.

Israel’s defence ministry, the petitioners said, had failed to carry out a high court order to present a plan by last August to remove the outpost.

The ministry, which had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, had said it wanted to move settlers from Migron to larger settlement blocs which Israel intends to keep in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.


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