Abbas sacks Hamas mayor in West Bank, citing debt
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government sacked a West Bank town's Hamas mayor on Saturday charging financial mismanagement, a move seen as complicating efforts to end a factional feud, Reuters reported.
Khaled al-Qawasmeh, the Palestinian minister of local government, told Reuters the mayor of Qalqilya, Wajih Qawas, and his 15-member council had been replaced by a loyalist of Abbas's secular Fatah faction until new local elections could be held.
Qawasmeh charged the town's debt had more than quadrupled since Qawas was elected in 2005, from 17 million shekels to a current 75 million shekels ($4.5 million to $20 million).
"The municipality did not respond to our repeated warnings to rectify their financial condition. The decision was based on administrative grounds," Qawasmeh said.
Qawas, of Islamist Hamas, charged he had been fired by Abbas's Western-backed government for political reasons as he had also made improvements in the Palestinian city that borders on central Israel.
"We are elected by the people and we should stay until a new election is held," Qawas told Reuters by telephone.
Hamas has controlled about 60 Palestinian local authorities in the occupied West Bank, since a municipal election in 2005, but Qalqilya was the scene of a deadly gunbattle that left six dead in fighting between Abbas's police and Hamas gunmen in May.
New local elections have been delayed in part because of a feud between Fatah and Hamas that flared after Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, a year after the Islamists trounced long-dominant Fatah in a parliamentary election.
Egypt has mediated a series of talks aimed at healing a rift seen as threatening to weaken a Palestinian bid for statehood, with the Palestinians politically split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Hamas refusing to recognise Israel.
Palestinian officials said on Thursday that Egypt had lately proposed a new delay in presidential and legislative elections meant to have been held in January, to allow more time for reconciliation talks.