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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party cancelled its primaries in the Gaza Strip on Monday after militants stormed some polling places and shut them down, party officials said.

The gunmen, firing in the air, on Monday stormed into several polling stations in the Gaza Strip where Fatah was holding primary elections and forced them to close, witnesses said.

The Fatah-member gunmen complained of irregularities in voter lists, the witnesses said about the incidents in the central Gaza Strip. They also burned tyres in the streets, the witnesses said about the incidents in the central Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported.

The primaries in Gaza, territory Israel quit in September and which is widely seen as a testing ground for Palestinian statehood, were held days after voters in the West Bank cast aside veteran Fatah politicians in favour of newcomers and militants, most notably "young guard" leader Marwan Barghouti, who is jailed in Israel for five life terms.

Despite the violence in the central Gaza Strip, the primaries to pick Fatah candidates for parliamentary elections due in January continued in Gaza City and the southern town of Khan Younis.

Voting in Rafah, along the Egyptian border, was postponed until Wednesday. The reason for the delay was not immediately clear.

The Palestinian Authority has been struggling to control the Gaza Strip since Israeli forces withdrew following 38 years of occupation.

A strong primary showing by young Fatah leaders demanding a say in decision-making could help Abbas meet a challenge by the powerful Hamas militant group, taking part in national elections for the first time, analysts said.

But some commentators also say weakening the Fatah old guard that thrived under the late Yasser Arafat risked touching off political infighting that might further fracture the ruling party.

Israel bans polling in E. J'lemAlso on Wednesday, Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra said that Israel will not allow the Fatah to hold its primary elections in East Jerusalem neighborhoods, Israel Radio reported.

It would, however, permit the opening of polling stations in the Jerusalem West Bank outskirts, Ezra said.