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"I am encouraging people to vote for any candidate, as long as it is not Abu Mazen," Jamal Abu Samhadana, a member of Fatah and a founder of the Popular Resistance Committees in the Gaza Strip, told Haaretz yesterday.

A Rafah resident who a few weeks ago survived a second attempt on his life by the Israel Defense Forces, Abu Samhadana did not vote yesterday. Neither did his deputy, known to be a Popular Front man. However they said the decision was not a collective one dictated by their organization, but rather a personal one. "The question is why the United States and Israel are supporting Abu Mazen," said Abu Samhadana, considered one of the highest-ranking wanted men in the Gaza Strip.

According to him, the fact that Abu Mazen's finger was cut off when a car window closed on it as he was rushed out of Khan Yunis last week, shows his lack of popularity. "What leader rushes to get away from his voters?" he said.

Asked for his own solution to the Palestinians' problems, Abu Samhadana answered: "We need a leader who will stick to his minimum principles - a return to the 1967 borders, Jerusalem as capital and the right of return for refugees.