Hamas hits the campaign trail despite renewed Israeli pressure

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The Independent Online

On Monday, the body of Sasson Nuriel, a kidnapped Israeli businessman, was dumped in Beitunya by the Hamas cell that had murdered him. A video of Mr Nuriel in captivity showed him mumbling in Arabic a request for the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Yesterday, Sa'ad Chalabi, the Hamas supporter who is seeking the mayoralty of Beitunya, as leader of the local "Reform and Change" grouping, was out at the polling station doing some last-minute campaigning on a programme of better schools, improved sewage provision, and more strategic planning.

Mr Chalabi, an electrical engineer who works as an IT expert at Al Quds university, says of Mr Nuriel's murder: "I know nothing about this. There are people in Hamas you can ask about that." Pressed, he says that he disagrees with the killing of all civilians.

Defending his nine-year record as a Fatah-appointed mayor, the incumbent, Arafat Khalaf, says of the killing: "I am against it. I want to live in peace with two states side by side."

But he too is campaigning entirely on local issues.

This is despite Israeli pressure on Hamas since the blast that killed 20 people at the faction's military parade in Gaza last week, almost certainly caused by an accident with its own weaponry.