RAMALLAH, July 10 (Jihan Abdalla/Reuters) - The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday announced it planned to hold local elections in October in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, angering Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers.
The Palestinian cabinet approved during its meeting today ... conducting local elections on 20 October 2012 in all local councils in the homeland, The PA said in a statement.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded: Hamas regards this unilateral step as undermining reconciliation and a decision of escalation that would further complicate the file of reconciliation and therefore, Hamas holds the Fateh movement responsible for the consequences that may result.
Hamas and Fateh, which is dominant in the West Bank, have been enemies
since they fought a brief civil war in 2007, leaving Hamas in control of Gaza and splitting the Palestinians geographically and politically.
The leaders of the two factions signed a deal in Qatar in February to form a unity government of independent technocrats from the West Bank and Gaza headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but the groups never implemented the agreement.
Israel, which regards Hamas as a terrorist organization, has condemned the unity efforts, saying the Palestinians must renounce violence and acknowledge past agreements in order to advance the peace process.
Hamas suspended voter registration in the Gaza Strip last week in a major setback to the reconciliation effort.
The PA's announcement and Hamas's rejection of it may lead to the polls only being held in the West Bank, further deepening the two territories' political divorce. (Additional reporting by Nidal Al-Mughrabi; editing by Andrew Roche)