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Armed men reportedly assault Fatah elections coordinator in Gaza

Aug. 29, 2016 10:37 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 30, 2016 11:32 A.M.)
Ramadan Baraka, an elections coordinator for the Fatah movement in Gaza
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Unidentified armed men reportedly assaulted an elections coordinator for the Fatah movement Monday afternoon in Bani Suheila, a Palestinian town in the southern Gaza Strip district of Khan Yunis.

Members of Ramadan Baraka’s family told Ma’an that masked armed men assaulted Baraka and took him to an unknown location, where they interrogated him regarding the elections.

The men then left Baraka near the city Khan Yunis, badly bruised on different parts of his body. He was taken to the European hospital for medical care.

The assault marked the latest incident since the Palestinian Authority-controlled cabinet in the West Bank -- which is dominated by the Fatah party -- announced in June its decision to hold municipal elections on Oct. 8.

The Hamas movement -- which controls the government in the Gaza Strip -- stated in July that it would participate in the local electoral process, after the movement boycotted the last local elections in 2012 in response to alleged corruption and intimidation among Fatah officials.

However various groups have since boycotted the elections, including the Hizb al-Tahrir party and the Popular Resistance Committees.

Meanwhile, political institutions in the northern West Bank city of Nablus decided to postpone municipal elections in the wake of violent confrontations between armed groups and Palestinian security forces which culminated in the brutal killing of one suspect while in police custody, who was a senior leader in Fatah’s armed wing, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades.

United Nations Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Piper recently hailed the upcoming municipal elections as a promising move towards advancing Palestinian political reconciliation, but warned that "the lack of party unity or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections, including through intimidation, threats, violence, or coercion during the election campaign, risks widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause."

The last elections in the Gaza Strip were held in 2006, when Hamas’ victory erupted into a violent conflict between Hamas and Fatah as both groups attempted to take control of the small Palestinian territory.

Gaza was placed under an Israeli military siege in 2007 following Hamas' victory in the general elections and subsequent takeover of the government. The nearly decade-long siege has severely crippled the economy and further isolated the Gaza Strip from the rest of the Palestinian territory.
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