Islamist Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced on Monday that they intend to boycott municipal elections scheduled to be held in the West Bank on July 17.
The two militant organisations said in separate statements that holding elections at this time would only increase the division among Palestinians, and that what they termed the arrest and harassment of their West Bank members does not make it possible for them to participate in the poll.
The Palestinian government of Salam Fayyad decided at the end of April to hold the overdue municipal elections in the West Bank only, after Hamas had decided against allowing elections in the Gaza Strip, which falls under its control.
The Fatah party, which dominates the West Bank—ruled Palestinian Authority, and Hamas have been at loggerheads since June 2007, when the Islamist group routed security forces in the Gaza Strip loyal to President Abbas.
Efforts to reconcile the two groups have so far been unsuccessful.
Holding the elections on July 17 neglects “Palestinian harmony,” Hamas said in its statement, which slammed “the security forces of “the Oslo team (the Palestinian Authority), in coordination with the Zionist enemy” for cracking down on “resistance groups” in the West Bank.
“As a result, we in Hamas and after studying the matter of municipal elections in the West Bank, announce our decision to boycott and not take any part in the municipal elections,” it added.
The Islamic Jihad, for its part, said in a statement that holding elections and “announcing them unilaterally without national accord will only increase and worsen internal division.” It condemned what it called “the oppression of the Palestinian Authority security forces of the members of the (Islamic) Jihad and other resistance movements,”