The troubled elections within the Fatah movement in Gaza have been suspended due to a spat of violent incidents.
Earlier, Fatah primaries for party leadership are underway in the Gaza Strip, following a weekend of first round votes in the West Bank, marked by an overwhelming victory in Ramallah for jailed Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti.
Ballot boxes opened across the tiny coastal strip early Monday where havoc pervaded many polling stations, preventing some of the 200,000 registered Fatah members from casting their votes.
In the northern part of the Strip
and in Gaza City, voting was halted when gunmen angered by allegations of gerrymandering took over polling stations, firing in the air, setting ballot boxes on fire, and ripping lists of candidates.
In the afternoon, residents reported Fatah activists setting tires ablaze in Khan Younis, Der al-Balakh, and Gaza City in a bid to block roads leading to polling stations.
Despite the disruptions, election officials remain hopeful that the primaries will go on as scheduled and the results will be announced as planned.
Uncertainty in the West Bank
Meanwhile, it remains unclear when primaries will be held in the West Bank city of Tul Karem and in Jenin, members of Fatah’s armed wing, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, refused to accept the election results.
Minister for Civilian Affairs Mohammad Dahlan is Fatah’s chief candidate in the Gaza Strip, where he is popular among Fatah activists and members of the Palestinian Authority security services and their families.
Dahlan’s popularity was boosted over the
weekend with the sealing of an agreement with Israel over the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.
The opening of the crossing makes life easier for thousand of Gazans who seek frequent entry to Egypt to visit relatives, seek employment, medical treatment, and to shop.
Citing fraudulent elections, gunmen have threatened to stymie the general elections slated for January if the Fatah leadership fails to comply with their demands for canceling the current vote and hold new primaries.
Meanwhile, the fate of the elections in Jerusalem remains shrouded in uncertainty as Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra said Israel would not allow Fatah to open polling stations in the capital, ordering the police to shut down stations in the Arab eastern parts of the city.
Palestinian officials however remain hopeful that behind the scene talks between Israel and the PA will eventually solve the dilemma and polling stations will be allowed to open.