Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The IDF and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) arrested on Tuesday a top West Bank Hamas official who is on the election commission in the upcoming Palestinian municipal elections. The arrest has sparked accusations of Israeli interference in the elections.
The IDF, in cooperation with the Shin Bet, arrested Sheikh Hussein Abu Kuweik, Hamas’s representative to the Central Elections Commission, in the al-Amari refugee camp in Ramallah. Abu Kuweik, who was previously arrested in 2011, is suspected of involvement in unspecified actions which posed a security risk, the Shin Bet said in a statement.
In a news briefing on Wednesday Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri condemned the arrest of Abu Kuweik calling it an “Israeli intervention in the electoral campaign process and an attempt to influence the results.”
Shaker Amara, a Hamas leader in Jericho contended that the arrests are “illegitimate.” Amara added that the arrests would serve to increase voter turnout in the municipal elections, scheduled for October 8. “These Israeli arrests will increase the peoples’ insistence on participating [in the election],” Amara stated.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also chimed in support of Hamas calling the arrests “piracy that is intended to disrupt local elections.”
In conjunction with the arrest of Abu Kuweik the IDF carried out a large-scale operation on Tuesday in the al-Fawwar refugee camp which Israel holds sought to “damage the terrorist infrastructure throughout the camp by carrying out arrests, summons for questioning, and weapons searches.” The IDF seized a gun and ammunition cache in the operation, which led to clashes with Palestinian residents resulting in the death of 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Hashash and at least 23 Palestinians injured; one IDF soldier was lightly injured after being hit with a rock.
In total, the IDF arrested 20 Palestinian men throughout the West Bank yesterday. Moreover, it suspects that five of the arrested individuals were involved in terrorism, of which three are Hamas members.
Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri also called for an end to a campaign of arrests against Hamas operatives reportedly carried out by the Palestinian Authority Security Forces.
The PA security forces have arrested multiple Hamas members in the West Bank during the past month including Nader Sawafta, a Hamas campaign organizer.
In an interview with Al Jazeera on Monday Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said his organization is considering boycotting the elections due to the continued arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank by the PA.
The upcoming municipal elections will be the first national elections in which both Hamas and Fatah are participating since the 2006 parliamentary elections.