The Islamic group Hamas says in a statement that their chief, Khaled Mashaal, won’t seek re-election.
The Palestinian group urges him to reconsider his decision, saying the issue of who leads the decades-old militant movement should be left to Hamas institutions. Hamas says the decision shouldn’t be made by one person ─ even its leader.
The group issued the statement Saturday to reporters via e-mail.
Mashaal, who is based in Damascus, was not immediately available for comment.
It is not clear when Hamas would conduct new, internal elections. The group elects leaders through a body it calls the Shura Council.
Hamas tells Fatah to end Israel talks
In a related story, Gaza’s Hamas prime minister on Friday called on Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to end all dialogue with Israel after troops arrested parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik.
In a speech during weekly Friday prayers, Ismail Haniya also urged Abbas to reconvene the long-dormant Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), or parliament, whose activities have been frozen for nearly five years.
The parliamentary speaker, who is a Hamas member, was arrested by Israeli troops late on Thursday, sparking a furious response from Gaza’s Hamas rulers as well as from Abbas’s Fatah movement.
“The response to the arrest of Dr Aziz Dweik should be to end these failed and absurd negotiations,” said Haniya, referring to a round of informal Israeli-Palestinian talks in Jordan aimed at finding ways to jump-start the stalled peace process.
“No Palestinian should shake the hand of his enemy or that of the occupier who arrests symbols of legitimacy and parliamentarians,” he said.
Dweik has held the position of speaker within the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), or parliament, since elections in 2006.
But the Hamas-dominated parliament has been paralysed since June 2007 when the Islamist movement took over Gaza, ousting Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.
The Palestinians must respond to Dweik’s arrest by reconvening the PLC, Haniya said.
“The response must be to reopen the gates of the Legislative Council and hold a new parliamentary session,” he said.
In order to resuscitate the long-dormant parliament, Abbas would have to formally call a PLC session and its members would have to either re-elect Dweik or chose a new house speaker.
The Israeli military confirmed Dweik’s arrest and said he was “suspected of being involved in the activities of a terrorist group.”
Dweik is a professor of geography at Al-Najah University in the northern city of Nablus, although he lives in the southern West Bank.
On Friday morning, Israeli troops arrested Hamas MP Khaled Tafesh at his home in a village east of Bethlehem, in the southern West Bank, Dweik’s chief of staff Bahaa Yussef told AFP.
The Israeli army confirmed the arrest, saying Tafesh was also “suspected of involvement in terrorist activity.”
Over 20 of Hamas’s 74 MPs in the 132-member PLC are currently being held by Israel, with most of them arrested in the last 15 months.
Two Fatah MPs and one from the leftwing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are also currently being held by Israel, parliamentary sources say.