The Palestinian cabinet on Tuesday called local elections for July 9, the first Palestinian vote since 2006, but the Hamas rulers of Gaza vowed to ignore the decision.
"The cabinet decided during its meeting today to hold local elections on Saturday, 9 July and charged the electoral commission with making the necessary preparations for it," government spokesman Ghassan Khatib told AFP.
But the Islamist Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, said it would not participate in the polls, meaning they are likely to be limited to the West Bank.
Local polls were originally set for July 17, 2010 but postponed after Hamas said it would not participate in a vote organised by the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by the rival Fatah movement of president Mahmud Abbas.
"These elections are not valid because they are called for by the Palestinian Authority and are devoid of legitimacy," spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP in Gaza City, saying Hamas would not recognise the outcome of any such vote.
"There will be no elections in the Gaza Strip unless they stem from reconciliation and from the national consensus," he added.
The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.
The Islamist group also scored a resounding victory in local elections in 2004 and 2005, winning in three of the West Bank's major cities.
New parliamentary and presidential elections had been due to be held in January last year but the Palestinian Authority abandoned efforts to hold a vote after Hamas refused to organise one in Gaza.
Announcing last week that local elections would go ahead this year, prime minister Salam Fayyad also said it was time to start preparing for the general election.
Hamas has refused to recognise the authority of Abbas's West Bank-based leadership since January 2009, when his four-year term expired but was indefinitely extended pending new elections.
Hamas officials say there can be no fresh polls until there is some kind of reconciliation agreement with its secular rivals in Fatah.
The bitter rift between the two factions goes back to the start of Palestinian self-rule in the 1990s, when Fatah strongmen cracked down on the Islamist militant group.
In January 2006, Hamas trounced its long-dominant rival in parliamentary elections, taking 74 of the 132 seats as it stood for the first time in a national ballot.
In June the following year, Hamas fighters expelled Abbas loyalists from Gaza in a week of deadly clashes, seizing control of the impoverished territory.
The move effectively divided the Palestinian territories in two and the rival factions have since repeatedly swapped accusations of mistreatment at the hands of the other's security forces.
Attempts to get the two factions to reconcile deal have gone nowhere, with key broker Egypt now firmly out of the picture in the face of the massive protest movement sweeping the country calling for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak.
The unrest, now in its third week, follows month-long protests in Tunisia, which led to the overthrow in January of veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and sent shock waves round the Arab world.
Source: AFP Global Edition