Hamas braces for Fatah crackdown, warns of undemocratic elections
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Hamas braces for Fatah crackdown, warns of undemocratic elections

Terror group official says arrests of its members in West Bank shows Abbas is not committed to fair vote

Palestinian students who support the Hamas movement take part in an election campaign rally for the student council at Birzeit University, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 26, 2016 (AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian students who support the Hamas movement take part in an election campaign rally for the student council at Birzeit University, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 26, 2016 (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Officials in the Gaza-based Hamas terror group are reportedly anticipating a crackdown by rival movement Fatah ahead of the upcoming local Palestinian elections, which are expected to yield significant gains for Hamas.

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.

But a senior Hamas member decried the Palestinian Authority’s ongoing arrests of its members in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported Monday. He said the persecution of Hamas members showed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s government was uninterested in conducting fair and democratic elections.

Hamas has ruled Gaza since a bloody 2007 coup saw it oust 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 influence.

Hamas's former Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh (right), shakes hands with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at Haniyeh's house in Gaza City, October 9, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Hamas’s former Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh (right), shakes hands with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at Haniyeh’s house in Gaza City, October 9, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Palestinian parliamentary elections were last held in 2006. Presidential elections last took place in 2005 and Abbas has held the presidency since then.

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 on Sunday, 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.

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