The Islamic militant group Hamas moved quickly on Monday to take control of the Palestinian parliament - voting to revoke a series of legislative measures passed by outgoing legislators loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli air strikes on Monday killed at least two senior Islamic militants and two bystanders in the Gaza Strip.
The first working session of the new Palestinian Legislative Council or parliament got off to an orderly start as 112 of 132 legislators convened in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The two gatherings were connected by a video hookup because of travel restrictions placed on a number of Palestinian legislators by Israel. Large photographs of about a dozen legislators who are in Israeli jails were placed on a number of seats.
Controversy soon boiled over however when Hamas legislators who now control the parliament demanded that a series of measures passed by outgoing legislators loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party be repealed.
The measures give President Abbas the power to appoint judges to a constitutional court who could then decide whether laws passed by the parliament are legal or not. The measures, which were passed after Fatah lost January 25 legislative elections to Hamas, were harshly criticized by Hamas legislators, who describe them as a way to give the Palestinian president veto power over any laws passed by Hamas.
After Fatah legislators walked out, Hamas legislators, in a show of political strength, voted to repeal the measures. Hamas has yet to form a government and has given little indication of what policies it intends to follow. So far the group, which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, has only said it will not recognize Israel or disarm as international donors have demanded.
The political fight took place as Israel continued its stepped-up policy of striking militants it says are responsible for suicide bombings. Air strikes in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday killed several militants including a senior member of Islamic Jihad. Former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres told Israel Radio that Israel will continue to strike at those who threaten it.
Mr. Peres says Israel wants to be a partner for peace with Palestinians but will not tolerate terrorism from Palestinians.
Mr. Peres, who is a close ally of acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, is expected to join other members of the newly formed centrist Kadima Party on the campaign trail in the next few days, as parties seek the support of voters ahead of Israeli elections on March 28.