Hamas issues ultimatum over Palestinian local elections
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Hamas issues ultimatum over Palestinian local elections

Terror group tells PA it will boycott West Bank vote, ban polls in Gaza Strip unless raft of demands met

Members of the Palestinian Hamas security forces take part in a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on January 22, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Members of the Palestinian Hamas security forces take part in a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on January 22, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The Hamas terror group said Thursday it would boycott local elections and nix municipal elections in Gaza unless Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas acceded to a list of demands.

In a statement published on its website the group, which is the de facto ruler in Gaza, called for the PA to ease a “security grip” on Hamas’s leadership in the West Bank.

It also demanded Abbas plan the elections in consultation with Hamas and urged the restoration of elections laws formulated in 2005, which it says were agreed upon by all Palestinians and that have since been changed.

At the end of January, the PA set already delayed elections for May 13.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister in Brussels on February 9, 2017. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a press conference after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister in Brussels on February 9, 2017. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Hamas boycotted the last Palestinian municipal elections in 2012, but it had been due to participate in the more recently planned vote.

On September 8, the Palestinian High Court of Justice in Ramallah suspended the poll scheduled for October following disputes between Fatah and Hamas over candidate lists.

Hamas has been at odds with Abbas’s Fatah party over the organization of their first elections in a decade.

The rival parties have not participated together in an election since 2006 parliamentary polls, which Hamas won, sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

Reconciliation attempts over the years since have repeatedly failed.

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 elections.

On Monday Hamas confirmed that Yahya Sinwar, considered one of its most ruthless leaders, was elected as the terror group’s chief in the Gaza Strip.

The election of Sinwar as Hamas’s Gaza leader signals the ascendance of the terror group’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, which now holds more sway in the Strip than the political leadership.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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