Fatah, Hamas accuse each other of sabotaging elections
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Fatah, Hamas accuse each other of sabotaging elections

As October municipal vote draws near, 2 major Palestinian factions are jailing each other's staff

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Illustrative photo of Palestinian security forces (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of Palestinian security forces (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

A Fatah spokesman accused Hamas on Thursday of “sabotaging” upcoming municipal elections by arresting personnel from his party in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Fatah agreed last month to hold municipal elections in both Gaza and the West Bank in October, for the first time in 11 years.

In a statement to the press, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmi said Hamas security forces arrested and jailed four Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip: Major General Sami Nasman, who is adviser to the head of PA intelligence for Gaza; Ibrahim al-Madoun; Ibrahim Abd al-A’l; and Ai’ed Abu Qamer. The four were charged with spying for Ramallah, the statement said.

Nasman was given a seven-year prison sentence while the other three were given five-year sentences.

Palestinian demonstrators hold Fatah party flags as they demonstrate in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron on November 4, 2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
Palestinian demonstrators hold Fatah party flags as they demonstrate in the center of the West Bank city of Hebron on November 4, 2015. (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

The same four Fatah officials were arrested by Hamas nearly two years ago on suspicion of instigating unrest in the Strip, but were released soon thereafter due to a lack of evidence, Qawasami said.

The Fatah spokesperson said the arrests were aimed at “sabotaging” the elections, and showed Hamas’s “insistence” on preserving a tense atmosphere.

Hamas on Wednesday also accused Fatah of trying to influence the elections by arresting its personnel in the West Bank.

The Islamist group in control of the Gaza Strip — considered a terror group by Israel and most Western governments — said in a statement on its website that Fatah had arrested five of its members over the past few days.

Bassem Zara’ir, an official in Hamas’s Legislative Council in the Hebron district, alleged the arrest of the movement’s members by Fatah was meant to “dissuade” the Islamists from running in the elections.

Zara’ir said the elections would “prove the people’s trust in Hamas’s resistance, service and political program.”

Illustrative photo of Palestinian protesters waving Hamas and Islamic Jihad flags as they take part in a demonstration in support of Gaza in the West Bank (AFP/HAZEM BADER)
Illustrative photo of Palestinian protesters waving Hamas and Islamic Jihad flags as they take part in a demonstration in support of Gaza in the West Bank (AFP/HAZEM BADER)

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a bloody 2007 coup saw it oust PA President Abbas’s Fatah movement from the coastal territory. The terror group has been a frequent critic of Fatah over the PA’s cooperation with Israel on security matters. PA security forces frequently arrest Hamas members in the West Bank, where Fatah is a dominant power fending off Hamas attempts to increase its influence.

Abbas said last week that the rival Palestinian factions would hold another round of reconciliation talks in the coming weeks, in a bid to mend fences after nearly a decade of hostility. In an interview with a Sudanese television station, Abbas said the two parties would meet on measures for general elections to select a president and members of parliament and on the establishment of a unity government.

According to local opinion polls and political experts, Hamas — which has been enjoying unusual popularity in the West Bank and remains well-supported in Gaza — is expected to make significant gains in the upcoming elections for local councils.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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