Jerusalem -- More than 30 Palestinian policemen charged onto the grounds of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza City yesterday and fired weapons into the air, demanding more government support in a growing confrontation with the militant Islamic faction Hamas.
Less than an hour later, lawmakers endorsed a plan calling on Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, to form a new Cabinet within two weeks. If he fails to do so, the government of the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, could face a no-confidence vote.
Both developments reflected Abbas' continuing struggles to establish order in the unruly Palestinian areas.
The recent withdrawal of Israeli settlers and soldiers from Gaza has refocused attention on the internal Palestinian strife in the coastal territory.
"What is happening is chaos and irresponsible," Abbas said on Palestinian television. "People are saying this is a test for a Palestinian state. If we continue on this path, these people will say we don't deserve one."
Some Palestinian lawmakers gathered in Gaza City and others in the West Bank city of Ramallah yesterday, and the session was linked by video conferencing.
This has happened several times in recent years because of travel restrictions imposed by Israel that have made it impossible for lawmakers in Gaza to go to the West Bank, or vice versa.
While the session was under way, the Palestinian policemen entered the gates of the parliament building in Gaza City, and while in the parking lot, fired their weapons skyward.
But no shots were fired inside the parliament building. The session was disrupted for about 15 minutes, but then resumed.
The protesters said they are short of weapons and political backing as they try to impose order, including a ban on militants carrying weapons in public.
The legislators stopped short of holding a no-confidence vote. But in a 43-to-5 vote, they approved a plan by a parliamentary committee that calls on Abbas to form a new Cabinet within two weeks, or a no-confidence vote could be held then.