TEL AVIV – Local elections in the Palestinian Authority (PA)-administered territories are heating up, with local news reports of gunfire and threats against candidates as well as the burning of their property and a slew of related arrests.
Palestinian media have reported that several candidates have been arrested over the last few days, accused of being involved in threats and even acts of violence against their opponents. A number of candidates complained that they have been the targets of these threats and other forms of pressure to end their campaigns. According to some of the candidates, the threats against them come from senior figures in the PA’s official security apparatus.
In Tulkarm, in the northern West Bank, vandals set fire to a vehicle belonging to Dr. Riad Awad, the former engineering faculty dean at An-Najah University in Nablus who’s now running for mayor of the town. According to Awad, his house, where his children also live, was attacked in a separate incident. “The attackers clearly threatened that my participation in the elections would be a danger to my life and the life of my children,” said Awad.
In Nablus, gunfire was directed at a vehicle and house belonging to Mohamed Dweikat, a young engineer and resident of the city, after he announced the creation of a list of young candidates to run in the elections. Dweikat told the news website Quds that “Masked gunmen in a private vehicle opened fire at the building where my brothers and I live. Afterward, they fired at my car. They damaged my brothers’ apartment and my car.”
In Jenin in the northern West Bank, gunfire was also reported at the home of a candidate for the so-called Democratic Alliance, Nur Aldin Khalaf, after he announced that he would run for a seat on the council of Burkin, a town just west of Jenin.
A fire bomb was also thrown in Hebron at a vehicle belonging to an incumbent council member in the city, Dr. Faruq Ashour. According to his family, the incident was intended to intimidate him into not running for office again.
Candidates have reported receiving telephone threats and other types of intimidation in other areas as well.
Local elections are scheduled for the month of October. Breitbart Jerusalem reported last month that PA sources were concerned that Hamas, the Islamist movement based in Gaza that decided to participate in the elections, might win many posts in the West Bank where public approval is in question toward the PA and Fatah, the political movement led by sitting President Mahmoud Abbas. Favorability ratings of local leaders have dropped as a result of many corruption scandals that included senior members of the PA and Fatah.
Hamas plans to participate in the upcoming elections on a joint list with independent candidates and technocrats, sparking fear in the PA that the vote will return Hamas to the forefront of the political stage in the West Bank after years during which PA and Israeli security forces forcefully limited movement in the area. Current leaders also fear that internal crises and splits within Fatah could increase Hamas’ chances of gaining significant ground in the elections.