Hamas has rejected a move by its rival Fatah to conduct municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, in a move that underscores the deep political rift and prevailing relations between the two Palestinian movements.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum told the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on Sunday that the Palestinian Authority initiated the idea of elections “to drag Hamas into internal quarrelling in order to deflect Palestinian and world attention from the prisoner issue.” Barhoum added that municipal elections will only “confuse the Palestinian scene.”

Hamas has maintained control over the Gaza Strip since it violently overthrew and banished its rival Fatah in 2007. But on May 9, Hamas allowed a high-ranking Fatah delegation led by PA official Nabil Shaath to enter the Gaza Strip for the first time in months to discuss reconciliation efforts. The Islamic movement continues to blame Fatah for arresting and harassing its members in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority has not officially announced its intention to hold municipal elections, though such elections are widely considered to be a necessary precursor to parliamentary and presidential elections.