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Palestinian police battle gunmen in Gaza

Abbas threatens election delay

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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Hundreds of marchers in southern Gaza called Monday for an end to corruption within the Palestinian Authority, while gunbattles pitted Palestinian police against rival political factions.

Meanwhile, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cancel parliamentary elections scheduled for January 25 unless Israel allows Palestinians to vote in Jerusalem.

In Gaza, Palestinian police battled gunmen from a faction of Fatah, the ruling Palestinian party that is dedicated to the formation of an independent Palestinian state.

According to wire services, no one was hurt.

And in Rafah, the Palestinian demonstrators complained that the Palestinian Authority has allowed the territory to plunge into chaos.

Mustafa Barghouti, who is heading an independent list in the elections, complained of an "absence of authority and vacuum of leadership" in Gaza and the West Bank.

"We believe that all these phenomena require an effective leadership, and this effective leadership can only be achieved through legislative elections as soon as possible," he said.

The Palestinian Authority has struggled to gain control over Gaza since Israel completed its historic withdrawal from the territory in September. Questions have grown over how well the ruling Fatah party will fare in the elections, when it will be pitted against the Islamic militant group Hamas and other organizations.

Abbas threat

Abbas warned that the vote may not take place as scheduled unless Israel reverses its decision to bar voting in largely Palestinian eastern Jerusalem. (Full story)

"We are all in agreement that Jerusalem has to be included in the election based on the 1996 criterions," he told Al-Jazeera, an Arabic-language TV network, in a reference to the only other Palestinian elections. "If the city is not included, all the factions agree that there will be no elections."

Israel has allowed Palestinians to vote inside Jerusalem in the past, including during last January's historic presidential election, which some international observers called the first truly democratic Arab elections. But it said in December that it would not allow voting to take place inside Jerusalem for the upcoming vote.

Israeli officials have objected to the participation of Hamas, which calls for the end of Israel's existence and has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.

Israeli media said Israeli officials were concerned the Palestinian leadership might use the Jerusalem issue as a pretext to postpone the elections.

Barghouti, who got about 20 percent of the vote against Abbas in 2005, said he had called on Palestinian leaders not to postpone the election.

"We are calling today all our people, all Palestinians and all groups to protect the democratic process and protect the election process," he said.

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