Hamas Call Palestinians to Boycott Elections in Gaza

Wednesday the Islamist group Hamas called Palestinians in the Gaza Strip that they should not take part in January elections prepared by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah movement.

The Interior Ministry said Abbas's call for parliamentary and presidential ballots on Jan. 24 was issued without the agreement of Hamas and other factions and was illegal.

"Any preparations, any committees, any collecting of names will be regarded as an illegal action that we will pursue," said spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain.

He said the ministry had instructed local officials not to cooperate with Abbas, whose secular party dominates political life in the West Bank but has been all but driven out of Gaza, Reuters reports.

It was also reported, 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, AFP reports.

In the meantime, about 1,500 notices of future civil lawsuits against the Israel Defense Forces over damages caused during the Gaza war have been filed in Israel.

The claims by Palestinians in Gaza come to tens of millions of dollars and deal with property damage, physical damage and loss of earning capacity, Ynet reported Wednesday.

The Israeli and overseas lawyers filing the notices say they will file the lawsuits in Israeli courts.

Israel could argue that it is no longer responsible for Gaza in light of the disengagement in 2005 and therefore should not have to pay compensation, a legal source told Ynet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

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