[JURIST] Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said Saturday that the government in Gaza Strip is replacing Palestinian Authority courts with a judicial panel consisting of an Islamic legal scholar, a military court lawyer, and a prison warden. Abu Zuhri said that the panel would not impose Islamic law, but will be able to apply it if all parties consent to its use in the resolution of their dispute. The judiciary in the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], under orders from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], has refused to cooperate with the Hamas government and ceased functioning since Hamas [BBC backgrounder] violently took over the territory in June. The committee is now expected to begin considering criminal cases that ordinarily would have been dealt with by the courts.
Palestinian infighting between the Islamist-Hamas and secular-Fatah Movement [BBC backgrounder] has led to the establishment of two parallel Palestinian governments in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas, which was elected as the ruling party [JURIST report] of the Palestinian Authority in early 2006, has refused to distance itself from terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist as a nation-state, resulting in increased ostracism by the United States, the European Union, and Israel. AP has more.