Palestinian municipal elections in West Bank only: Government

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Palestinian local elections scheduled for May will take place in the West Bank only and not in Gaza, the government announced Tuesday, scuppering hopes of the first vote in both territories in a decade.

The Palestinian Authority, run by President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, sits in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, while the Islamist Hamas movement controls Gaza.

The rival parties have not competed in an election since parliamentary polls in 2006, which Hamas won -- sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

“(We will) hold the municipal elections in the West Bank on May 13 and postpone them in the Gaza Strip,” Tarek Rishmawi, spokesperson for the government in Ramallah, told AFP.

He did not give a date for elections in Gaza.

Civil society organizations had attempted to find a way to hold the elections in both territories simultaneously.

Hamas said the announcement reinforced the “division” between factions and “serves Fatah’s political interests.”

Rishmawi, in turn, blamed Hamas for the decision.

The municipal elections are seen as a key confidence builder that could open the way to parliamentary or presidential elections.

A previous attempt to hold a simultaneous vote in both territories collapsed last year.

The last municipal elections in 2012 were held in the West Bank only and were boycotted by Hamas.

The failure of the rival movements to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Both sides have voiced commitment to the principle of reconciliation but multiple efforts at forging a unified administration have failed.

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