Palestinians voted on Thursday in the first municipal elections in the &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2002/02/19/26494.html ' target=_blank>West Bank in nearly three decades, a dress rehearsal for a presidential ballot next month to choose Yasser Arafat’s successor.
The elections, which drew a heavy voter turnout, were expected to be a test of strength between the dominant &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2001/08/27/13488.html ' target=_blank>Fatah movement and Islamists sworn to destroying Israel.
"This is democracy and freedom, and God willing we will choose the right people who will serve our needs," said Rahma Hamed, a school principal who voted in the village of Silwad, some 20 km (12 miles) north of Jerusalem, reports the Daily Times.
According to the Xinhua News, dozens of Jewish settlers demonstrated on Thursday in central &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/hotspots/2002/04/25/28032.html ' target=_blank>Gaza Strip to protest a promised Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian witnesses said.
The protest took place at the roadblock leadin g to the Jewish settlement of Gush Katif south of the central Gaza Strip town of Deir el Ballah.
The settlers from settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank blocked the main road, which is the main artery of traffic for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The settlers burned tires and threw stones at Palestinian vehicles.
Israel, which receives about 1.5 billion pounds a year in U.S. aid, may seek extra funding next year to bolster border security and overhaul checkpoints as part of a plan to pull out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank, sources familiar with the talks have said.