Fears of violence forced the newly-elected mayor of Abu Snan to hold his first meeting at a dilapidated community center yesterday, instead of town hall.
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Ali Hazima, who was recently declared the winner in hotly contested mayoral elections by the Haifa District Court, agreed not to enter the municipal building, which is under siege by supporters of former mayor Nihad Mishlab.
"We are bound by a responsibility to prevent violence that will injure citizens or draw police into an unnecessary confrontation," Hazima said, as he and his supporters entered the community center.
"So we decided to compromise and provide the town with the best possible governance."
A few months ago, Hazima petitioned the Haifa District Court to overturn Mishlab's most recent election victory, claiming massive vote forgery. The court accepted the claims and ruled Hazima had won.
The High Court later rejected a petition by Mishlab to rescind the Haifa District Court's decision. The two sides have been deadlocked ever since.
In recent weeks tensions in the Galilee town have mounted, and homes of Hazima's supporters have been targeted in grenade attacks.
Police have been reluctant to forcibly remove Mishlab's supporters from town hall, and are trying to reach a compromise.
Meanwhile, a temporary agreement negotiated by Druze spiritual leader Mowfak Tarif and MK Ayoob Kara enabled Hazima to hold a meeting at the community center yesterday.