Hamas wins West Bank university elections

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

The elections came only hours after Israeli soldiers detained three Hamas-affiliated students from Birzeit University.

Hamas has for the third year in a row won the most seats in student council elections at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In a press release Wednesday evening, Birzeit University reported that the Al Wafaa Islamic Bloc won 25 of the 51 student council seats, compared to the Fatah-affiliated Martyr Yasser Arafat faction, which seized 22 seats.

Fatah is affiliated to the Palestinian Authority (PA) which controls the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip.

The rival governments have been at odds since fighting between the two main-stream political groups broke out in Gaza in 2007.

The Democratic Progressive Student Pole (Al Qutub), affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), won four seats, while other competing factions did not gather enough votes to claim any seats, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported.

Dean of Student Affairs, Muhammad Al Ahmad, said that 74 percent of the university’s 10,859 students had participated in the election.

Birzeit University’s student elections are closely monitored by political observers as a reflection of public sentiment on the ground, especially in the absence of national elections for more than a decade following the fallout between Hamas and the PA.

The university is also considered one of the more prestigious universities in the Arab world and a hub of political activism.

Its elections are regarded as transparent, while elections at other universities in the occupied Palestinian territory are not.

The elections at other universities in Gaza and West Bank have been riddled with allegations of corruption, vote fixing and political intimidation by both Hamas and the PA.

The elections came only hours after Israeli soldiers detained three Hamas-affiliated students from Birzeit University.

In March, 60 students from Birzeit were incarcerated by Israeli security forces on political grounds, while hundreds more students from other universities were being held on the same grounds.

Meanwhile, as the political schism, and geographical divide, between Hamas and the PA continues to escalate, the PA has decided to stop providing medicines and baby formula to hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

Dr Munir Al Bursh, the director general of the Gazan Health Ministry’s pharmacy department, was quoted on several Hamas websites saying the decision to stop supplying baby formula and medicine was political.

“This is a decision that has destructive implications for the residents of Gaza and in particular for the chronically ill and children,” said Bursh.

He said hospitals in the Gaza Strip had already reported a severe shortage of 17 types of medicine for treating cancer patients, and this would have a serious effect on patients who needed such drugs daily – such as cancer patients or those on dialysis.

The critical shortage of medicines has been exacerbated in the last few days because the last shipment of drugs arrived in the Gaza Strip three months ago when they are usually made every two months.

The move follows an earlier decision by the PA to reduce payments of its civil servants in Gaza by 30 percent as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, with the political and financial support of US President Donald Trump, ups the pressure on Hamas in an endeavour to win control of Gaza.

The coastal territory is already crippled by Israel’s siege which limits the amount of goods the territory can import.

“Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of two million Palestinians in that area,” said the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Afffairs (OCHA)

“They continue to reduce access to livelihoods, essential services and housing, disrupt family life, and undermine people’s hopes for a secure and prosperous future.”

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