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Israeli Military Occupation Prompts Delay in Palestinian Elections - 2002-12-22


A Palestinian general election scheduled for January has been postponed indefinitely. The announcement came in a statement from the Palestinian leadership, which said Israel's re-occupation of West Bank cities makes it impossible to either conduct a campaign or hold a ballot.

The Palestinian decision to postpone the presidential and legislative elections was announced following a cabinet meeting on Sunday.

The announcement said the elections, which had been scheduled for January 20, would be impossible to hold until after the Israeli army withdraws from the re-occupied areas. The army re-occupied seven of the eight largest Palestinian cities in the West Bank in June, after a wave of suicide bombing attacks inside Israel.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for general elections last September, following heavy pressure from the United States, the European Union and the Palestinian people, all of whom were demanding reform of the Palestinian Authority.

But earlier this month, he said the vote would most likely have to be delayed because of the Israeli occupation. On Friday, the Palestinian central election committee formally recommended the elections be delayed.

The Palestinian decision came amid continuing violence. Israeli troops shot and killed an 11-year-old Palestinian girl in southern Gaza Saturday, as she walked home from school. She was the fourth young person to be killed by stray gunfire from Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip in the past week.

On Sunday, the Israeli army set up roadblocks that effectively cut the Gaza Strip into three parts. Several hours later, a Palestinian man was shot and killed. The Israeli military said he attacked their troops near the heavily guarded Jewish settlement of Morag in the southern Gaza Strip with hand grenades and an automatic rifle.