(Reuters) – The Western-backed government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad gave the go-ahead on Sunday for local elections in the West Bank in July, despite opposition from rival Hamas Islamists who run the Gaza Strip.
“The cabinet decided to continue with all necessary preparations for carrying out the polls for local councils in the West Bank on July 17,” it said in a statement after a meeting in the city of Ramallah.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in 2007. The two parties have been in a state of open hostility since.
Legislative and presidential elections called in January by Abbas were canceled due to a ban by Hamas on participation in the Gaza Strip.
An Egyptian plan aimed at ending the Palestinian division set legislative and presidential elections for June. Fatah leader Abbas, who is supported by Cairo, signed the document, but Hamas has refused to.
The Palestinians last held local elections in 2005, shortly before a legislative election in which Hamas defeated Fatah.
(Reporting by Ali Sawafta; Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Mark Trevelyan)