Hamas and Fatah battle over arrests ahead of municipal elections

Hamas’s official website said that Palestinian Authority Security Forces has arrested eight and summoned seven of its and other factions’ members.

August 2, 2016 19:33
2 minute read.
Palestinian president Abbas stands between PM Haniyeh and senior Fatah leader Dahlan in Gaza

Palestinian president Abbas stands between PM Haniyeh and senior Fatah leader Dahlan in Gaza. (photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)

Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of attempting to undermine its municipal election campaign in the West Bank by arresting and summoning a number of its members on Monday, according to al-Quds al-Arabi.

Abdul Rahman Zeidan, a Hamas representative of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said that the Palestinian Authority Security Forces are carrying out an arrest campaign in the West Bank that is “shaking Hamas’s confidence in the PA’s, the government’s and Fatah’s seriousness in organizing democratic elections.”

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Zeidan added that if the PA wants the municipal elections to succeed, it “must create conditions that reassure the citizen regardless of his affiliation that he can freely vote for whoever represents him.”

Hamas’s official website said that PA Security Forces has arrested eight and summoned seven others from Hamas and other factions.

On Monday evening, Fatah spokesperson Osama Qawasmeh accused Hamas of arresting and summoning its members in the Gaza Strip, according to the official Palestinian Authority Wafa news site.

“The summoning and arrest of dozens of our leaders, members, and cadres in Gaza has not stopped for one moment [since the 2007 coup], but now [these tactics] have increased in a major way in light of the upcoming municipal elections,” Qawasmeh said.

He condemned the arrests and summons, saying they reinforce the division between Fatah and Hamas. “These actions are unacceptable and condemnable,” he said. “They prove that Hamas is clinging to an anti-democratic strategy, and insisting on destroying every opportunity to achieve national unity and end the black division.”

However, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Iyad Bazm denied Qawasmeh’s claims on Tuesday morning, calling them “baseless.”

“I challenge him to name one name of a Fatah member that has been arrested in recent days on the basis of his organizational and political background or electoral activity,” he said.

Qawasmeh was not available to respond to the Post’s requests for comment.

Jihad Harb, a researcher at the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, told The Jerusalem Post that the arrests from both sides are not a positive sign for the upcoming municipal elections.

“These arrests and summons campaigns are harming the municipal election process, and suggest both Hamas and Fatah are not serious about holding clean and fair elections,” Harb said.

The Palestinian Authority announced in late June that it will hold municipal elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in early October.

However, Hamas authorities only announced their participation and intention to make the elections successful in mid-July. The last time the PA held municipal elections in 2012, Hamas boycotted and prevented them from taking place in Gaza.

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