Rival groups strongly oppose the Palestinian Authority’s decision to hold local council elections in the West Bank without the Gaza Strip’s participation.
The Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank announced that the municipal vote will be held on July 17 as it decided to postpone the elections in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
The decision to defer the elections in the Gaza Strip was made on recommendation by Fatah’s central committee.
The move drew angry reactions from Palestinian groups in the besieged coastal enclave, especially the Islamic Hamas movement, which gained a sweeping victory in the 2006 council and parliamentary elections.
"These elections are unconstitutional because the Ramallah government is not constitutional," Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said in an interview with Press TV.
"Everyone knows that the outcome will be in favor of Fatah who controls the West bank with an iron fist," he added, warning that the decision would "bolster the division because Fatah is stealing the elections in the West Bank."
The Islamic Jihad movement, also based in Gaza, criticized the decision for hampering reconciliation efforts.
"We oppose these elections as they will only widen the gap between the Palestinians," said the movement’s spokesman, Abbas Modallal.
Highlighting the significance of a national reconciliation accord, Modallal noted that such a deal would "guarantee the right of resisting the Israeli occupation by all means."
Analysts point out that the election row is yet another proof of deepening divisions between Palestinian factions, particularly Hamas and Western-backed Fatah.
Hamas secured a majority in the 2006 general elections but had to limit its rule to the Gaza Strip in June 2007 upon a coup attempt by rival Fatah, which set up its own government in Ramallah.