Palestinians hold local elections in West Bank but not Gaza


Polls were due to close at 7:00 pm and final results are expected on Sunday.

The West Bank and Gaza have not participated in an election together since 2006, when Hamas swept Palestinian parliamentary polls, sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year.

Only 145 West Bank localities were up for vote, after the more than 200 others either failed to submit an electoral list or submitted only one, meaning automatic appointment, according to the Palestinian Central Election Commission.

The papers also highlighted President Mahmoud Abbas' visit to Russian Federation and his talks with officials.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah says Hamas prevented its members from taking part in the election and called on its new political leadership to agree to a national unity government followed by comprehensive elections. "Holding them in the West Bank alone, without Gaza, will cement division", said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. The 300,000 residents of east Jerusalem were not voting Saturday.

This week, Hamas's bloc won the student council elections in the prominent Palestinian university Bir Zeit, an indication of the group's support in the West Bank.

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In Hebron, the West Bank's largest city, posters of candidates filled the city's main buildings.

Rival lists also looked to the same electorate.

Even so, "municipal elections are better than nothing" in a country where "the situation is unlike anywhere else in the world", said Zina Masri, who voted before going to work.

The three Palestinian Arabic dailies highlighted in their Saturday issue the protests that raged in the West Bank in support of striking Palestinian prisoners as well as USA efforts to revive the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

"Saba Obaid, 20, was killed after being struck in the heart by a bullet fired by an Israeli sniper during clashes that occurred in Nabi Saleh village north of Ramallah", the ministry said in a statement.