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Abbas delays Palestinian elections

Mahmoud Abbas

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed Palestinian legislative elections set for July 17, officials in his office said Saturday.

No new date was set and no reason was given for the postponement.

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, condemned Abbas' decision, which he said goes against a truce agreement that Abbas reached with militant groups in Cairo, Egypt, in March.

Hamas -- a Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist organization -- will continue to honor the truce, Abu Zuhri said.

Abbas has pushed for election reforms and the Palestinian Elections Commission has said it could not mount the elections by July 17 if voting laws were changed by the Palestinian legislature.

Hamas, which is the most potent political group in opposition to Abbas, has accused Abbas and his Fatah political movement of delaying the elections so they can shore up support.

Hamas defeated Fatah in some local elections in Gaza during early May.

Hamas has a military wing that has taken responsibility for attacks on civilians. Hamas also operates an extensive social services network in the Palestinian territories.

Last week, CNN asked Abbas, while on a visit to Washington, if the elections would be delayed.

"Our decision until now [is] that elections will take place on July the 17th this year," he said.

"But there are two important issues that we have to take into consideration. The first one, that the election committee, which is a nongovernmental organization that it is independent, they are saying that the time allowed and the time period that we have between now and the election is not enough in order to conduct the elections on time.

"The second issue is the Palestinian legislative council is studying now the various amendments and modifications to the electoral law. If those two legal issues will impose themselves, then I will not be in a position to hold those elections on time. Anyway, these are subject to discussions. And we will know within a week." (CNN Access: Abbas: 'We have to work together')

Demonstrators demand police jobs

Unemployed Palestinian militants demanding they be hired as police officers barred Palestinian Authority officials from passing through Gaza's border terminal with Egypt on Saturday, Palestinian Interior Ministry officials said.

The armed and masked militants confiscated the travel documents of a Palestinian diplomat and displayed the papers to TV cameras. Video footage showed cars turning away and leaving the Rafah border crossing area.

The Palestinian Authority has said it will hire 5,000 police officers in preparation for Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, scheduled for August. Interior Ministry officials said they have received more than 50,000 applications from the densely populated, poverty-stricken region, where unemployment is around 60 percent.

The militants, known as the Fatah Hawks, are affiliated with Abbas' ruling party. The recently revived group was well-known during the Intifada, which ended in 1992.

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