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Future of Palestinian Authority in doubt -Haniyeh

Written by: Staff
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Aug 9 (Reuters) Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas questioned today whether the Palestinian Authority can continue to function with key lawmakers and ministers in Israeli jails.

The comments were the first by Haniyeh to question the viability of the Palestinian Authority, which was created under peace deals with Israel in 1994, since a Hamas-led government took power in March.

Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel's destruction, trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction in a January parliamentary election.

''All political elites, the presidency, the factions and the government are invited to discuss the future of the Palestinian Authority following this (Israeli) attack,'' Haniyeh said, referring to Israel's arrest of parliament speaker Aziz Dweik of Hamas last week.

''Can the Palestinian Authority function under the occupation, kidnappings and assassination?'' Haniyeh asked lawmakers in the West Bank via a video link from the Gaza Strip.

Israel seized more than 20 lawmakers and eight government ministers after militants in Gaza kidnapped an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid in June.

Israel also launched a ground and air offensive that has killed at least 163 Palestinians in the coastal strip. Two of the ministers have since been released.

Abbas has repeatedly accused Israel of undermining the Palestinian Authority, whose original concept was to give 3.9 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza a say over their affairs until statehood.

When Hamas took control in March, international donors led by the United States froze direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, demanding Hamas recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept existing interim peace deals with Israel.

Haniyeh's suggestion drew support from some of Hamas's political rivals.

''It's our right to question the benefit of the continuation of the Palestinian Authority,'' said Salam Fayyad, an independent lawmaker and former finance minister. ''The continuation of the Palestinian Authority will acquit Israel from it's responsibility as an occupying power.'' Several top Fatah officials proposed in March that Abbas resign, dissolve the Palestinian Authority and return responsibility for the occupied territories to Israel in protest at unilateral Israeli moves.

REUTERS DKA PM1915

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