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Hamas in Gaza elections warning

Mahmoud Abbas (file image)
Mahmoud Abbas's presidential term expired earlier this year

The Islamist movement Hamas has told Palestinians in the Gaza Strip not to take part in elections called by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Hamas said the elections set for 24 January had been called without its agreement and were illegal.

It said anyone in Gaza who co-operated with the poll would be "dealt with by the ministry or by other means".

Hamas drove Mr Abbas's Fatah party out of Gaza in 2007 and the two factions remain bitter rivals.

January's proposed parliamentary and presidential vote would mark the end of the four-year term of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Mr Abbas's presidential term expired earlier this year but he has continued in the absence of elections.

'Shadow boxing'

"The government in the Gaza Strip rejects the principle of holding elections in the Gaza Strip because it comes without an agreement and was announced by a president whose presidency has ended its term," said the Hamas interior ministry statement.

Hamas also said it would not permit the Central Election Commission (CEC) - which has five offices in Gaza - to operate in the enclave.

The 2006 elections saw Hamas triumph over Fatah and the two groups formed a unity government. However, a subsequent power struggle led to the government's collapse.

Hamas seized control of Gaza, while Fatah still dominates Palestinian political life in the West Bank.

Egypt has recently tried to broker a unity deal between the two factions, but Hamas has so far refused to sign up to the plans.

The most recent opinion polls suggest that support for Hamas has sagged badly, the BBC's Tim Franks reports from Jerusalem.

Our correspondent says this latest spat over the election date could be shadow boxing but, at the least, it shines a light on the depth of dislike between the two main Palestinian factions.



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