Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally in memory of their seven comrades, who were killed when a tunnel collapsed close to the Gaza Strip's eastern border with Israel.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas on Sunday denounced the Palestinian Authority for arresting three Palestinians who reportedly planned to carry out a terrorist attack against Israelis.
The three men – Basel al-A’araj, 32, from Walaja near Bethlehem, Muhammad Harb, 23, from Jenin, and Haytham al-Syaj, 19, from Hebron, had left their shared apartment in Ramallah, disposed of their mobile phones, ID cards and laptops, and disappeared, prompting their families to file a report with the PA security forces.
One day after the three men disappeared, Harb sent an SMS message to his mother in which he wrote: “I want to be alone for a week or two.
I might deactivate my Facebook account. Don’t worry.”
The PA’s General Intelligence Force arrested them one week after they went missing.
Harb recently graduated with a degree in engineering from Bir Zeit University and was working as a trainee in an engineering office. His family said he was scheduled to start working as an engineer in the new Palestinian city of Rawabi in the Ramallah area.
A’araj also graduated with a degree in engineering from the same university and is known in Ramallah as a political activist, while Syaj was a construction laborer.
The three men were arrested in a field near the village of Arourah west of Ramallah.
A Palestinian officer belonging to the General Intelligence Force spotted the three men on Saturday and reported to his superiors, who dispatched a police force to the area and arrested them, PA security sources said.
The sources said the three men were carrying large backpacks and had spent time wandering between the fields and mountains in the Ramallah area.
The policemen took the men to the General Intelligence Force headquarters in Ramallah and notified their families that they had been found.
Luay Zreikat, a spokesman for the PA police, said that the three men were being interrogated about the circumstances of their disappearance.
He would neither confirm nor deny a report in an Israeli media outlet that claimed that the men were planning to attack Israelis.
Their disappearance sparked rumors in the West Bank according to which they had been kidnapped by settlers.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that the arrest of the three men was a “dangerous development and a sign of increased security coordination” between the PA and Israel.
“This coordination is aimed at aborting the intifada and targeting the Palestinian resistance,” Abu Zuhri charged. “Hamas condemns the practices of the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank and holds the Palestinian Authority and Fatah leadership responsible for these unpatriotic measures.”
Another Hamas official, Hussam Badran, held PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his security forces responsible for the arrests.
“The leadership of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are working openly to thwart the popular uprising,” Badran said. He pointed out that the PA security forces have arrested dozens of Palestinian youths in the past few days.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, said that the three men were not wanted by the PA. “We searched many parts of the West Bank for the missing men at the request of their families,” he said.
He strongly denied rumors to the effect that the PA security forces had handed the three men over to Israel.
“Our role is to protect the Palestinian people,” Damiri said. He warned Palestinian factions, including Hamas, against taking advantage of the case to make baseless charges against the PA. He added that the PA will publish more details about the case as soon as the interrogation of the three men is completed.