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Hamas Gaza chief: If Israel messes with our elections, we’ll mess with theirs

Palestinians are scheduled to head to the ballot box on May 22, although observers are skeptical that vote will actually happen

Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, May 1, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)
Yahya Sinwar, the top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City, May 1, 2017. (Adel Hana/AP)

Hamas deputy chief Yahya Sinwar threatened Thursday that Hamas would disrupt the March 23 Knesset elections if Israel attempted to interfere with the Palestinian elections scheduled for May.

“I’m directing a message to the leadership of the occupation. We in the leadership of Hamas will not allow Israel to interfere in the electoral process. If they do, we will confound them and we will ruin their electoral process,” said Sinwar, who is Gaza’s de facto governor for the terror group.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced in mid-January that Palestinians would return to the polls with an electoral decree setting three rounds of elections, with the first — legislative elections — scheduled for May 22.

That statement was greeted with heavy skepticism, as numerous electoral promises have fallen through before due to divisions between Abbas’s Fatah and its rival Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote during local elections at a polling station in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 20, 2012. (photo credit: AP/Majdi Mohammed)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote during local elections at a polling station in the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 20, 2012. (AP/Majdi Mohammed)

As in previous election pushes, Palestinian officials in both Fatah and Hamas have said East Jerusalem participation is a must. Israel cracks down on Palestinian Authority activity in Jerusalem, saying PA activity there violates agreements between the two sides.

“The greatest concern over the elections is from Israel, that Israel will prevent elections in Jerusalem or in Area C, or that Israel will put a mass lockdown on the West Bank and prevent Palestinians from voting,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Ahmad Majdalani told The Times of Israel in late January.

Sinwar is currently campaigning on two fronts, however. Hamas is holding its own internal elections to fill its senior positions. The elections are held in closely-guarded secrecy, but the first round is rumored to have been finished already.

Sinwar is second only to Hamas politburo head Ismail Haniyeh in the terror group’s hierarchy. Considered a hardliner within the terror group, which avowedly seeks to destroy Israel, he is infamous for his key role in founding Hamas’s military wing and security services.

In 2017, Sinwar became chief of Hamas’ Gaza branch, making him the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip. The position makes him effectively the second most powerful official in the terror group and a key candidate for future leadership. His predecessor as Gaza chief, Haniyeh, became the leader of Hamas in 2017.

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