While Israel announced on Wednesday, December 21, barring Palestinians living in Al-Quds (occupied east Jerusalem) from casting their ballot in the legislative elections, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas urged Egypt to help hold the polls as scheduled on January 25. "We will not allow there to be any polling booths in Jerusalem for the Palestinian elections," an official in Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon's office told Agence France-Presse (AFP). "In the past, we have allowed Palestinians to vote in post offices but not this time," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israel had initially been reluctant to allow voting in Al-Quds for the presidential elections in January. It reluctantly allowed Al-Quds residents to vote in post offices after pressure from the United States, but confusion over voter registration prevented many from casting their ballot.
Israel captured and then annexed Al-Quds after the 1967 war but the international community still regards the holy city, home to nearly 200,000 Palestinians, as an occupied territory. Al-Quds is home of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam third holiest shrine, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Scuttling the Vote
Nabil Abu Rudeina, the spokesman of the Palestinian Authority, accused Israel of violating its agreements and hindering the electoral process. "We urge Israel to respect the agreements which allowed the elections to take place in Al-Quds in 1996," he said in reference to the last legislative election.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat also condemned the decision, calling it part of an Israeli design to sabotage the whole election. "This is clear evidence that they are trying to destroy the election in general so they can say they have no Palestinian partner" in the peace process, said Erakat. Erakat added that he had sent an urgent message to senior US State Department envoy David Welch, urging him to help avoid "a disaster for the Palestinian people and the region in general."
Hamas, for its part, called upon regional heavyweight Egypt to help hold the legislative elections as scheduled on January 25. "We urged Egypt to help the Palestinian people and the PA to hold the elections on time," read a statement issued by the resistance group, a copy of which was sent to IslamOnline.net. "Postponing the polls will have adverse impact on the Palestinians," said Saeed Seyam, a senior Hamas leader.
He maintained that holding the voting on time will preserve the unity of the Palestinian people and foil any foreign intervention attempts. Well-placed Palestinian sources told IOL that Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman, currently visiting the occupied territories, would "press Hamas and other Palestinian factions to postpone the elections after US and European pressures on the PA and President Mahmoud Abbas to bar Hamas from contesting."
EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana said on Sunday, December 18, that if Hamas won the elections, it would be "very difficult that help and the money that goes to ... the Palestinian Authority will continue to flow". In a resolution approved on Friday, December 16, the US House of Representatives threatened the PA that it risked losing US financial aid and other support if it allowed Hamas to contest the legislative polls.
Hamas, which is putting up candidates for parliament for the first time, is expected to do well against President Mahmoud Abbas's fractured Fatah. The resistance group has won in three out of four West Bank cities in last week's local ballot. The results illustrated Hamas's grass-roots strength especially at a time when Fatah is in disarray after a group of popular leaders broke away to form their own faction for the January election.
Israeli troops kill Jenin Hamas leader
Israeli occupation forces have shot and killed the leader of Hamas's military wing in Jenin during a raid on the West Bank town. Zayid Khalil Musa was the leader of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, reports Aljazeera's correspondent in Jenin. A Palestinian source said the resistance fighter had been killed by an Israeli undercover unit inside a building on Wednesday.
Another reports cites an Israeli military source as saying troops had shot dead an armed Palestinian man in an exchange of gunfire. Aljazeera's correspondent reports that clashes between resistance fighters and Israeli forces are continuing in the town. Two fighters and an Israeli soldier have also been injured in the clashes.
Residents earlier said soldiers in around 25 jeeps had entered the town, surrounding several houses. Elsewhere in the West Bank, Israeli occupation forces rolled into the town of Nablus at daybreak and engaged in clashes with stone-throwing youths.
At least six youth were wounded by rubber-coated bullets. In Balata, two members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of the ruling Fatah faction, were lightly wounded by Israeli gunfire, sources said.
Source: islamonline and aljazeera
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