Hamas accuses Fatah of crackdown after campus election win

Hamas accuses Fatah of cracking down on its members and interfering in  student elections following the terror group’s surprise victory in the Birzeit University elections. 

By Lauren Calin, World Israel News

Hamas accused Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA), of preventing universities from holding fair student elections after the Hamas-affiliated bloc gained a shocking victory at Birzeit University, located near Ramallah. Fatah denies the charges and “blessed” the results of the Birzeit elections, which are considered a barometer of Palestinian public opinion. Palestinian presidential and legislative elections have not been held since 2006.

“We bless the successful elections, the results that every student bloc achieved and the victory of the Hamas-affiliated bloc,” Fatah spokesman Fayiz Abu Aita told Palestinian news agency Ma’an. “This is the democracy we want and accept, and we hope for others to believe in and accept it, especially in the Gaza Strip.”

Hamas, however, accused Fatah of interfering in Palestinian university elections. Jihad Salim, a representative of the Islamic Wafaa bloc at Birzeit, was arrested just two days after the elections. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed on Sunday that the Fatah-dominated PA has been arresting Hamas members in the PA-controlled territories in a crackdown instigated by the Birzeit elections.

Furthermore, the elections at An-Najah University, situated near Shechem (Nablus), have been postponed. According to a university spokesman, the reason for the delay is tension among the different factions, but Hamas supporters say otherwise. “Had the PA known that the Islamic Bloc would win [in Birzeit University], they would have used weapons to stop that,” said senior Hamas official Fathi Qar’awi.

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At the same time, Fatah has cut off communication with Hamas after a PA Labor Ministry delegation to the Gaza Strip was unable to conduct its work due Hamas confining the PA employees to their hotel. Minister of Labor Mamoun Abu Shahla indicated that Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah will likely cancel his planned visit in light of the incident, warning that Hamas’s behavior jeopardizes the reconstruction of Gaza by discouraging foreign funding.