GAZA CITY — The Hamas-run interior ministry in the Gaza Strip said on Wednesday that it will ban the organisation of elections called for by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the coastal territory.
"The ministry will hold accountable anyone involved in the elections," the interior ministry said in a statement.
The ministry "rejects the holding of elections in the Gaza Strip because they were announced by someone who has no right to make such an announcement and because they came without national agreement," it added.
Last week Abbas called for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on January 24 after Hamas declined to sign on to an Egypt-brokered reconciliation agreement that was inked by his secular Fatah party.
Abbas issued a decree ordering elections in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, in a move seen by some as turning up the heat on the Islamist group to sign the deal.
Hamas -- which trounced Abbas's secular Fatah faction in the last parliamentary elections in January 2006 -- rejected the decree as an "illegal and unconstitutional step."
Abbas was elected on January 9, 2005 for a four-year term. The Palestinian Authority extended his presidency by one year so presidential and parliamentary elections could be held on the same date, as required by Palestinian Basic Law.
Hamas has consistently rejected the extension granted to Abbas, and no longer considers him to be the legitimate president of the Palestinian people.
On Saturday Hamas parliamentary speaker Ahmed Bahar said Abbas should be put on trial "for usurping power.
Abbas has said he is determined to proceed with organising the polls and denied that the move was a tactic to persuade Hamas to sign the Egyptian unity agreement.
He has also said he remains determined to try to reconcile with Hamas.
The Egyptian proposal made earlier this year would see new elections being held in June 2010. Fatah has signed the accord but Hamas said it needs more time to study it.
Hamas-Fatah tensions date back to the start of limited Palestinian self-rule in the mid-1990s when Fatah strongmen cracked down on Islamist activists.
The simmering divisions boiled over in June 2007 when Hamas fighters expelled Abbas loyalists from Gaza in a week of bloody clashes, seizing control of the impoverished and densely populated territory, which is home to 1.5 million people.
Since then the Palestinians have been divided into mutually hostile camps in the West Bank and Gaza, with Fatah and Hamas accusing each other of persecuting their political opponents in the territories under their control.
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