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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 12:48 GMT
Fatah party reunites for election
Students hold posters of Marwan Barghouti in the West Bank town of Nablus
Marwan Barghouti headed the rebel ballot list
Palestinian ruling party Fatah says it has submitted a unified list of candidates for elections in January, after a rival faction agreed to rejoin.

Fatah has been in disarray since a group of younger members split off and submitted its own list of candidates.

But members of the so-called new guard have since agreed to be part of a single list to "achieve a victory".

Observers say the move gives a boost to the Palestinian leader, who is expected to face a strong challenge from Hamas.

There have been fears that the Fatah infighting could throw Palestinian politics into chaos and threaten the election process.

Earlier, gunmen loyal to the party besieged poll offices in Gaza, in a protest at Fatah's list of contenders.

Militants exchanged fire with police at an election office in Gaza City and forced the closure of offices in Khan Younis and Rafah.


The unification announcement came at a news conference on Wednesday.

Scheduled for 25 January; originally set for July 2005
132 members elected to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
Fatah and Hamas are main contenders
First time Hamas participates in parliamentary poll
Israel says Hamas cannot take part under a 1995 agreement
Last parliamentary elections held in 1996

"We are making a sacrifice for the interest of the movement," Ahmed Ghneim, a member of the new guard, said.

Splits had spurred their submission of a rival list two weeks ago, headed by jailed activist Marwan Barghouti, under the new name al-Mustaqbal (the Future).

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas sought to close the divide by agreeing to put Barghouti's name at the top of his party list and including those of other rebel faction leaders.

Earlier this week, a Palestinian court ordered the election registration process to be re-opened temporarily so Fatah could submit a unified list, which party officials say has now been entered.

Earlier, militants traded fire with police outside the Central Elections Committee (CEC) site in Gaza City, in the latest outbreak of unrest ahead of the poll.

Gunmen linked to the party have staged daily temporary takeovers of Palestinian Authority buildings, to demand jobs and an end to corruption.

The 25 January poll will be only the second election since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1995.

Ceasefire rejected

Meanwhile, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have said they will not extend their ceasefire with Israel beyond the end of this year.

Young gunmen of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade
Gunmen loyal to Fatah stormed offices in several cities this month

"Renewing the truce will give it an opportunity to attack the resistance," an Islamic Jihad leader said.

The comments came after Mr Abbas travelled to Gaza to appeal to militant groups to stop rocket attacks on Israel.

There were more Israeli air strikes against targets in Gaza early on Wednesday morning, but there are no reports of casualties.

The Israeli army said the aircraft had attacked access roads used by militants to fire rockets at Israeli targets.

Armed groups have been able to fire missiles deeper into Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in September.

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