Attacks in protest of decision to suspend Fatah's primary elections.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Dozens of gunmen stormed Palestinian Authority offices in the Gaza Strip on Thursday in protest against the decision to suspend Fatah's primary elections. The elections were halted Monday because of fraud and violence.
Sources in the Gaza Strip said the gunmen were members of Fatah's armed wing, Aksa Martyrs Brigades. No one was hurt in the raid - the latest sign of growing lawlessness and anarchy in PA-ruled areas. They said the attackers were carrying Kalashnikov rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, but did not use them.
The offices targeted belong to the PA's finance and interior ministries.
The gunmen demanded that the elections in the Gaza Strip be held as soon as possible so that Fatah could choose its candidates for the parliamentary vote scheduled for next January. They also voiced opposition to any attempt by the Fatah leadership to appoint candidates as a substitute for the elections.
Primary elections held in some West Bank areas last week saw young guard Fatah activists defeat veteran leaders of the party, intensifying the traditional power struggle between representatives of the two generations.
Representatives of the young guard fear that the Fatah leadership is trying to cancel the elections so that it could name its own candidates for the January vote.
In another sign of growing tensions between the two sides, the head of the Fatah council for supervising the primary elections in Hebron, Imad Abu Sharekh, submitted his resignation on Thursday, saying the planned elections in the city would not be fair and democratic.
Ahmed Ghnaim, a senior Fatah activist who won in primary elections that were held in the Jerusalem area on Wednesday, accused unnamed PA security officials of trying to interfere in the voting process.
"Some of these security officials are responsible for the chaos that rocked the elections in many areas," he said. "We are aware that some political and security officials are trying to sabotage the democratic process."
Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who also heads Fatah, is seeking to resolve the crisis in his party quickly. Wednesday night he chaired an urgent meeting of the Fatah central committee in Ramallah to discuss the latest crisis and ways of easing tensions between Fatah's old guard and young guard.
It was decided at the end of the meeting to form a 24-member review board, chaired by Abbas, to look into allegations of massive irregularities and fraud during the voting.
The committee will also try to finalize Fatah's list for the legislative elections - a move that is likely to draw sharp criticism from young activists.
Fatah central committee member Abbas Zaki said the committee would question Fatah officials and activists who were allegedly responsible for the fraud and violence.