Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud AbbasReuters

Ahmed Bahar, the deputy chairman of the Palestinian parliament and a senior member of the Hamas terrorist group, denied the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas as chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking to the Hamas-affiliated Palestine newspaper in an interview which was published on Wednesday, Bahar pointed out that Abbas has no legal status because his term in office ended in January 2009 and the extension of his term was carried out illegally.

The establishment of a constitutional court by Abbas without consultation or broad agreement is null and void and this body cannot dissolve parliament, he continued, adding that an attempt to transfer Abbas's powers to the constitutional court, should he be unable to rule, would be invalid.

If Abbas is prevented from ruling, said Bahar, he would be replaced by parliament speaker Aziz Dweik, a Hamas member, for a period of 60 days until general elections are held, as was the case after the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, who was temporarily replaced by the speaker of the parliament at that time.

Bahar accused Abbas of adopting a punitive policy against Gaza in order to incite the public against Hamas and of aiming to destroy the two most important sectors of education and health by sending thousands of Gazan teachers and doctors to early retirement. He further said that Abbas is trying to carry out revenge and does not want reconciliation.

The remarks are the latest in the ongoing war of words between Fatah and Hamas which has been ongoing since 2007, when Hamas violently took control of Gaza in a bloody coup.

A unity government between Hamas and Fatah collapsed in 2015 when Abbas decided to dissolve it amid a deepening rift between the sides.

Since the unity government was dissolved, Hamas and Fatah have held several rounds of reconciliation talks in Doha, Qatar – but with no success.

This week, however, Abbas held a rare meeting with a delegation of Hamas officials. The meeting dealt with inter-Palestinian reconciliation efforts.