October 18, 2012 - 12:00am

RAMALLAH, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian municipal elections started in the West Bank Thursday for the first time since 2005 among concerns of excluding the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.

The voting on Thursday was allocated for policemen and security staff, and the polling stations will be open for more than 518,000 eligible voters Saturday, Palestinian officials said.

Israel will not allow the elections to be held in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians seek as a future capital. Meanwhile, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, refuses to participate in elections before a national reconciliation is reached.

The elections in the West Bank involve more than 90 councils and local governing committees, according to the Central Elections Commission (CEC).

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) said Thursday that it was "deeply concerned" about starting the elections "in light of the limiting of public freedoms and continuing widespread violations of human rights" in the West Bank, where pro-Abbas hold sway.


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