GAZA CITY (AFP) - Hamas said on Wednesday it will ban the organisation of elections in its Gaza Strip stronghold after president Mahmud Abbas called for a vote in the Palestinian territories. The move raised doubts about whether the vote decreed by the Western-backed president would take place in January and threatened to further deepen the bitter rift between his secular Fatah party and its rivals. The Hamas-run interior ministry said in a statement it will hold accountable anyone involved in the elections. The ministry rejects the holding of elections in the Gaza Strip because they were announced by someone who has no right to make such an announcement and because it came without national agreement, it added. Any preparations, any committees, any collecting of names will be regarded as an illegal action that we will pursue, said spokesman Ehab Al-Ghsain. He said the ministry had instructed local officials not to cooperate with Abbas, whose secular party dominates political life in the West Bank but has been all but driven out of Gaza. Hamas said its decision would include banning the current Central Election Commission (CEC), which has five offices in Gaza, from operating on orders from Abbas. Ghsain said the current CEC was no longer entitled to carry out preparations for an election, since Palestinian factions including Hamas and Fatah had agreed in Egyptian-mediated unity talks that a new body should be formed. Abbas has said he is determined to proceed with organising the polls and denied the move was a tactic to get Hamas to sign the unity agreement. The Central Election Commission has begun work on implementing the decree, and on Wednesday Salih Rafat, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said his group hoped to persuade Hamas to participate. The leadership is now making calls to all the Arab countries to assume their role with Hamas to facilitate the holding of these elections, Rafat told AFP in the West Bank political capital of Ramallah. Political analysts say the clash over the elections may be tactical, leaving both sides with room to climb down. Abbas has said he could delay a vote if Hamas agrees to reconcile, and Hamas has said it could take part in an election next summer. A diplomat close to the Cairo-sponsored talks said Abbas would be left with no choice but to go ahead with the January election should there be no agreement in the next two months. A Palestinian jurist said Abbas could not now delay the election, having issued a presidential decree, unless parliament consented. The parliament is currently not functional as a result of Hamas-Fatah divisions. Some Hamas leaders say the group may decide to conduct a separate election in Gaza in January, which would prolong divisions and turn Gaza and the West Bank into separate geographical and political entities. The Egyptian proposal made earlier this year would see new elections being held in June 2010. Fatah has signed the accord but Hamas said it could not sign the document because it differed from previous understandings. Abbas has said he remains determined to try to reconcile with Hamas, and has left open the possibility of holding elections in June if Hamas signs the Egyptian agreement. A poll earlier this month showed 40 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would vote for Fatah compared with just 18.7 percent for Hamas. Hamas-Fatah tensions date back to the start of limited Palestinian self-rule in the mid-1990s when Fatah strongmen cracked down on activists. The simmering divisions boiled over in June 2007 when Hamas fighters expelled Abbas loyalists from Gaza in a week of bloody clashes, seizing control of the impoverished and densely populated territory, which is home to 1.5 million people. Since then the Palestinians have been divided into mutually hostile camps in the West Bank and Gaza, with Fatah and Hamas accusing each other of persecuting their political opponents in the territories under their control.