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Israel Charges Palestinian Parliament Speaker With Membership in Outlawed Organization


Israeli military authorities on Tuesday charged the Palestinian parliament speaker, who is also a leader of Hamas, with membership in an outlawed organization. The action comes amid renewed clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.

Abdel Aziz Dweik, the Palestinian parliament speaker, was led into a military court in shackles Tuesday and charged with belonging to an outlawed organization.

Military prosecutors say in addition to being active in an outlawed organization, Dweik spoke with Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, about transferring large sums of money to the Palestinian territories. Speaking to journalists, Dweik said he did not recognize the court's authority.

Calling the proceedings a political trial, the Palestinian parliament speaker says he is an elected official of the Palestinian government.

Dweik is the most senior Hamas leader to be charged so far by Israeli authorities. They have arrested about 30 Hamas lawmakers, including five cabinet ministers since Palestinian militants abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in late June.

Israeli forces say they killed three Palestinian militants early Tuesday who were trying to cross into Israel from the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships conducted house-to-house searches in Gaza on Tuesday near the Karni crossing, the main cargo crossing point between Israel and Gaza. Israel also carried out airstrikes in the area.

Palestinian civil servants, including teachers, said Tuesday they will begin an open-ended strike on September 2., the first day of the school year to protest the Hamas government not paying their salaries since March. The strike is expected to affect about 80,000 of the estimated 165,000 Palestinian civil servants.

Most Palestinian civil servants have not been paid in months because international donors have suspended aid to the Palestinian Authority because the Hamas government refuses to recognize Israel.