As part of its massive crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority’s security forces have begun arresting sons and husbands of senior figures in the Islamist movement.

The arrests are designed to increase pressure on Hamas to prevent it from extending its control from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, said a PA security official in Ramallah.

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Last week, the PA’s General Intelligence Service arrested the sons of Samira Halayka, a legislator who represents Hamas’s Change and Reform list. Earlier, Halayka’s husband and driver were also arrested by the PA.

Halayka said that scores of Palestinian officers, some of them masked, had raided her home late at night and arrested her sons Osama and Anas after beating them.

Halayka said that in her village alone, some 300 young men had been arrested or summoned for questioning by the PA security forces on suspicion of supporting Hamas.

“My sons and fellow villagers are not robbers and highway thieves,” she wrote in a letter to Majed Faraj, commander of the General Intelligence Service. “You have kidnapped teachers, imams, university students, factory owners, businessmen and even elderly men. You have also summoned mothers, children and even pregnant women to interrogate them about me. They were all humiliated during interrogation.”

Halayka said that her husband, who was detained for 17 days in a PA prison, had lost half a kilogram each day.

On Sunday, Palestinian policemen arrested three sons of Sheikh Hamed Bittawi, a prominent Hamas figure in the West Bank. Bittawi is also a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council representing the Change and Reform list.

The three arrested were Islam, an engineer; Ahmed, a journalist; and Nasr, a student.

Bittawi said that his sons’ arrest was an attempt by Fatah-affiliated security forces to “silence the voice of Palestinian parliamentarians.”

He added that thousands of Hamas supporters in the West Bank had been either arrested or summoned for questioning by the PA in recent months.

Some of them complained that they had been physically tortured while in PA custody.

“If the oppressors think that these arrests will make us change our position, they are living in an illusion,” he said.

Bittawi’s elder son, Islam, was first arrested by the General Intelligence Service, which released him after hours of interrogation. Shortly after he arrived home, he was arrested again, this time by agents working for another security agency, the Preventative Security Service.

Sources in Nablus said that on Sunday night, the PA had also arrested five lecturers working for An-Najah University.

They were identified as Mustapha Shinnar, Muhammad Abu Ja’far, Nizar Awartani, Muhammad Nuri and Wajih Abu Eideh.

Some of them had already served time in Israeli and PA prisons on suspicion of membership in Hamas.

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