Fatah activists raid PA elections office

Gunmen demanding jobs take positions on the roof of the governor's building.

al aksa beit lahiya  (photo credit: )
al aksa beit lahiya
(photo credit: )
Dozens of Fatah activists on Tuesday raided the offices of the Palestinian Authority's central elections commission near Jerusalem, demanding that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas include candidates from the city in the first ten slots of the Fatah list for next month's parliamentary elections. Earlier, disgruntled Fatah gunmen briefly occupied three government buildings in the town of Bet Lahyia in the northern Gaza Strip to demand jobs. The gunmen, who commandeered the rooftops of a religious court, the Education Ministry, and the governor's office, accused the PA of failing to fulfill its promise to hire them. Eyewitnesses said about 100 activists commandeered the election offices at the Dahyet al-Barid village, north of Jerusalem. Located outside the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, the village is under Israeli security control. The IDF did not interfere. Some of the attackers fired into the air during the raid, the latest in a series of attacks on the election commission's offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. No one was hurt during the attack. The attackers took all 10 election employees hostage, saying they would release them only on Wednesday morning. They demanded that at least two Fatah activists from Jerusalem be included among the first five slates on the party's list for the parliamentary vote. They also demanded that three other activists be included in the first ten slots. PA and Fatah officials arrived at the scene and began negotiating with the attackers. Hatem Abdel Kader, a senior Fatah official from Jerusalem, told The Jerusalem Post that he was strongly opposed to such methods of protest. He called on the attackers not to harm the hostages. The attack came as Abbas was expected to travel to the Gaza Strip to brief local Fatah officials on the make-up of the party's new list. Headed by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, the new list reportedly excludes many representatives of the old guard in Fatah in line with demands by Barghouti and his followers. The new list is supposed to end the crisis in Fatah by merging Barghouti's list with a rival one that was formed by Abbas and the central committee of Fatah, a body dominated by old timers. However, Abbas is now facing a revolt by the old guard officials, who have accused him of succumbing to pressure by Barghouti and rebel activists. Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, a prominent representative of the old guard in Fatah, withdrew his candidacy over the weekend in protest against Abbas's decision to exclude him from the party's list. Qurei and other veteran Fatah leaders are believed to be considering the possibility of forming a rival list that would contest the vote independently from Fatah. Sources close to Abbas said they did not rule out the possibility that he would include some old guard officials in the new list at the last minute in a bid to avoid another split in the party. Abbas, they added, is expected to announce the final line-up on Wednesday after holding consultations with Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip. According to the sources, three of Barghouti's main allies - Mohammed Dahlan, Jibril Rajoub and Kadoura Fares, have decided to run as independent candidates and not as part of the new Fatah list. The decision is seen as an expression of protest against Barghouti's agreement to merge his list with the official Fatah list.