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      Hamas Terror Group Handed Control of Palestinian Authority

      The Hamas terrorist organization was formally sworn in Saturday as the leading party in the Palestinian Authority. Acting PM Olmert will present a plan for "gradual" sanctions.
      By Ezra HaLevi
      First Publish: 2/18/2006, 11:03 PM / Last Update: 2/19/2006, 1:09 AM


      Hamas members now make up a majority of the Palestinian Authority (PA) parliament – 74 out of 132 seats. Not all were able to attend the swearing-in in Ramallah due to restrictions on their ability to travel from Gaza to Judea. Those unable to attend took their oaths of office via live video-stream. Fourteen of the newly sworn-in members of the PA parliament are currently in prison for terrorist activity. Included in that number is Marwan Barghouti and PFLP terrorist Ahmed Saadat, responsible for the October 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister and founder of the Moledet party Rechavam Ze'evi.

      In attendance were Arab Knesset Members, as well as diplomats, including a US envoy.

      PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) made a last-ditch call for Hamas to choose negotiations with Israel as a "strategic choice." He also said he would not rest until the circumstances of Yassir Arafat's death are determined, an apparent espousal of a conspiracy theory long advocated by Arafat's widow.

      Abbas also insisted that the PA remains bound by the Oslo Accords. Hamas immediately rejected the claim, however. "Hamas rejects all negotiations with the occupiers under the current circumstances, in which occupation and aggression continue," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri declared. "We reaffirm our commitment to resistance as a natural right of our people," Abu-Zuhri added, using Hamas's euphemism for terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians.

      Hamas choice for prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, will soon take the place of Fatah's Ahmed Quria (Abu Ala). He will have three weeks to form a government. Meanwhile Fatah strongman Jibril Rajoub admitted in an interview with Israel Radio that part of the PA's armed forces would be transferred to Hamas control.

      Tensions are growing in the PA as Fatah officials are claiming that the PLO, as the signer of the Oslo Accords and holder of the presidency, has sole responsibility over PA foreign policy, while Hamas dismisses the claim out of hand. Salim Zanoun, the Fatah official who headed the Palestinian Legislative Council until Saturday admonished the incoming Hamas members, quoting Yassir Arafat's instructions to use the term "Israelis" instead of "Jews" when conducting policy in the parliament. The new speaker is Hamas member Abdel Aziz Duek.

      Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz told reporters that Acting PM Ehud Olmert will present a plan to the Cabinet Sunday that calls for Israel to stop transferring millions of dollars in tax monies to the PA, close all Gaza border crossings and prevent workers from the PA from crossing into Israel. Mofaz added that plans to allow passage between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, as well as the construction of a new port and airport in Gaza, would be put on hold.

      Talk of cutting electricity to the PA has turned out to be just that. Mofaz also said that Israel would continue to enable relief organizations to operate freely.