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Palestinian security forces block press conference by parliament speaker

Palestinian security forces in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council building in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on December 26, 2018
Palestinian security forces in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council building in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on December 26, 2018 Palestinian security forces in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council building in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on December 26, 2018 AFP
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Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Palestinian security forces on Wednesday prevented a press conference by the speaker of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian parliament after a court ordered the largely defunct body dissolved.

Security forces in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank deployed in the area outside the Palestinian Legislative Council building ahead of a scheduled press conference by speaker Aziz Dweik, a Hamas member, AFP journalists saw.

A spokesman for the Palestinian security services said they were enforcing the court decision and that former members of parliament no longer have the right to use the building since the body has been dissolved.

In comments to Hamas's Al Aqsa television, Dweik said he had been detained at a checkpoint and denounced the actions of the security forces, calling the court's decision illegal.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called the security forces' actions a "serious escalation".

It was the latest controversy over Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's move to dissolve the parliament, which has not met since 2007.

Dissolving the parliament allows Abbas to further pressure his rivals Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.

While the parliament has been largely defunct, Palestinian law allows for its speaker to act as interim president should 83-year-old Abbas die in office.

The ruling to dissolve parliament was made by the Palestinian Constitutional Court in Ramallah, and Hamas has said it rejects the move by a court created by Abbas "to legitimise his arbitrary decisions".

The ruling also called for elections within six months.

Hamas won the last parliamentary elections in 2006 in a landslide, resulting in an electoral dispute with Fatah.

The Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip the following year, and the split between them and Abbas's Fatah has persisted.

A range of issues have kept the two sides apart, including Hamas's refusal to disarm its military wing.

Abbas, whose Fatah is based in the West Bank, has sought to pressure Hamas in recent months by reducing salaries in the Gaza Strip, which is under an Israeli blockade, among other moves.

Abbas's term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

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