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Fatah slams Hamas in Gaza over threats to its members ahead of elections

Aug. 30, 2016 3:14 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2016 7:19 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- The Media and Cultural Department for the Fatah movement in the southern Gaza Strip denounced the recent incidents of a physical assault and verbal harassment directed at Fatah-affiliated members in the small Palestinian territory.

In a statement released Tuesday, the committee said that they held Hamas -- the ruling party in the Gaza Strip -- responsible for the assault and threats, saying that Hamas was attempting to perpetuate the conflict between the two parties and intervene with the upcoming municipal elections to be held across the Palestinian territory in October.

The statement highlighted an incident the day prior, when unidentified armed men reportedly assaulted a Fatah elections coordinator in Bani Suheila, a Palestinian town in the southern Gaza Strip district of Khan Yunis.

Members of Ramadan Baraka’s family told Ma’an Monday afternoon that masked armed men assaulted Baraka and took him to an unknown location, where they interrogated him regarding the elections, before dumping him near Khan Yunis badly bruised on different parts of his body.

The statement added that Etidal al-Shami, a lawyer and Fatah-affiliated candidate in the local elections in Bani Suheila was also threatened.

Jomaa al-Najjar, a former member of the elections monitoring committee in Bani Suheila was also reportedly verbally abused, while two Fatah candidates in the local elections for the town of Khuzaa in Khan Yunis -- Wisam Abu Rjela and Ahmad Qadeh -- were threatened as well.

The committee added in the statement that, “These practices conducted by Hamas are to obstruct Fatah’s efforts to end the conflict and unify the Palestinian people and national parties, despite all Hamas’s incitement against Fatah.”

Shortly after, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri condemned Fatah's attempts to implicate Hamas in "Fatah’s internal conflicts."

Zuhri alleged that Baraka's assault came as a result of a conflict between Fatah's two competing electoral lists in Bani Suheila.

Zuhri said that Fatah's accusations were an attempt to cover the “security massacre” against Hamas in the occupied West Bank, which he said was causing hundreds of the Hamas' candidates to withdraw and cancel several electoral lists.

The PA-controlled cabinet in the West Bank announced in June its decision to hold municipal elections on Oct. 8, re-energizing the Fatah-Hamas rivalry.

While Hamas announced it would participate despite boycotting the last local elections in 2012 in response to alleged corruption and intimidation among Fatah officials, Hamas has slammed the Fatah-dominated PA “for launching an immoral slander campaign against Hamas” in order to sabotage the elections along with Israel, noting parallel detention campaigns were being conducted by both PA and Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank targeting Hamas members.

Various groups have since boycotted the elections, including the Hizb al-Tahrir party and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Meanwhile, political institutions in the northern West Bank city of Nablus decided to postpone the elections in the wake of violent confrontations between armed groups and Palestinian security forces which culminated in the brutal killing of one suspect while in police custody, who was a senior leader in Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Piper recently hailed the upcoming municipal elections as a promising move towards advancing Palestinian political reconciliation, but warned that "the lack of party unity or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections, including through intimidation, threats, violence, or coercion during the election campaign, risks widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause."

In spite of the heightened tensions between Hamas and Fatah ahead of the elections, analysts in the Gaza Strip said earlier this week that tribal affiliations had a growing role in the electoral process in the besieged Palestinian territory, at the expense of political parties.

Sociopolitical analyst Muin al-Kafarna said that Palestinian political parties had lost a lot of their influence in Gaza, especially in rural areas, adding that many citizens had reached the conclusion that “political parties in general have ruptured the social fabric and social ties in Palestinian society.”

“All political factions and parties have become subordinate to tribe, to a degree that inside some tribes there have been disputes over who would represent the tribe in the electoral lists of major political parties,” political analyst and researcher Mustafa Ibrahim told Ma’an on Sunday, adding that political parties were approaching tribes in order to secure votes.

The parties’ growing dependency on tribal support, al-Kafarna argued, has led these same tribes to lean towards bypassing the political parties altogether.

The last elections in the Gaza Strip were held in 2006, when Hamas’ victory erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah as both groups attempted to take control of the small Palestinian territory.

Gaza was placed under an Israeli military siege in 2007 following Hamas' victory in the general elections and subsequent takeover of the government. The nearly decade-long siege has severely crippled the economy and further isolated the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian territory.
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