West Bank votes in polls underlining split

2017-05-13 19:04


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Ramallah - Palestinians in the occupied West Bank voted in municipal elections on Saturday that underscored deep rifts between President Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party and Islamist rival Hamas that runs the Gaza Strip.

Their failure to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

The international community refused to deal with any government in which Hamas participated until it renounced violence and recognised Israel and past peace agreements.

Assume responsibility

Escalating tensions between Hamas and the more moderate Fatah led to Hamas's seizure of Gaza in 2007, while Abbas's party was left with control of the West Bank.

Voting for around 300 municipal councils opened early on Saturday at dozens of schools across the West Bank, which has been occupied by Israel for half a century.

"It's important that everyone has a say" but also that those elected "assume the responsibility given to them", said Rami Nazal, a UN employee who voted in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.

More than a million Palestinians were registered to choose from among 4 400 candidates standing in a vote that is seen as yet another sign that reconciliation may be a long way off.

Read more on:    mahmud abbas  |  israel  |  palestine territory  |  middle east peace

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