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Abbas Accused of Undermining Rule of Law

Palestinians gather in the streets to call on Fatah and Hamas to repair their ruptured relations.
Said Khatib / AFP/Getty Images
Palestinians gather in the streets to call on Fatah and Hamas to repair their ruptured relations.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is coming under fire from critics who say he is ignoring the rule of law. Abbas has issued a series of controversial decrees since Hamas militants seized the Gaza Strip from his Fatah movement.

Earlier this week, Abbas gave military courts in the West Bank powers to crack down on suspected Hamas supporters. He is also under attack for trying to undermine the power of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Hamas, which has a majority in the legislature, boycotted a session Wednesday that was called by Abbas to extend the emergency government he formed after last month's bloody showdown in Gaza.


Without the parliament's stamp of approval, Abbas is likely to extend the government with a presidential decree — a move some here see as unconstitutional.

Following the factional warfare in Gaza, Abbas dissolved the coalition with Hamas and appointed the emergency government in the West Bank. But the Hamas leadership in Gaza said Abbas's move was illegitimate and has refused to recognize or cooperate with the new government.

Since then, Abbas has issued a series of decrees that have many moderates worried. He cancelled the licenses of hundreds of non-governmental organizations in the West Bank, and said all such organizations must receive new licenses from the Interior Ministry. Critics say that decree was used solely to disband groups affiliated with Hamas.

Abbas also ordered his security forces in the West Bank to arrest anyone carrying an unlicensed weapon. More than 300 Palestinians were detained, almost all of them linked to Hamas. No members of Fatah-linked groups were arrested or asked to give up their guns.

Earlier this week, Abbas issued another decree declaring that all civilian courts were to be replaced by military tribunals. But after an angry public outcry, that decree was rescinded.


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