Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has declared illegal the paramilitary force in the Gaza Strip controlled by the ruling Hamas group.

Mr. Abbas made the announcement Saturday, saying he also has decided to reshuffle the Palestinian security force and its leadership. He says he based his decision on the increasing chaos and the failure of the existing security services to protect Palestinian citizens.

The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry defied Mr. Abbas' decree hours later, saying it would double the existing paramilitary force in the Gaza strip to a total of 12,000 personnel.

A senior Hamas official was abducted in the West Bank Saturday.

Security officials say masked assailants kidnapped the deputy mayor of the northern city of Nablus. Authorities also say gunmen stormed the offices of the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Ramallah, shooting and abducting the office manager. He was later released and hospitalized in a nearby town.

There has been no immediate claim of responsibility in either incident.

Fatah has been been locked in a power struggle with Hamas since the radical Islamic group won parliamentary elections a year ago. The two groups had been in talks to form a unity government, but those talks has so far failed.

Fighting between the two groups recently spread from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.