(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority is working toward eradicating Hamas politically in the West Bank, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri claimed on Sunday.
Abu Zuhri, who was speaking to reporters in Gaza City, also accused the PA of participating in the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
Abu Zuhri’s comments came in response to the PA’s ongoing security crackdown on Hamas supporters in the aftermath of the Islamist movement’s victory
in the Bir Zeit University elections last week.
The Hamas-affiliated Islamic Bloc won 26 seats of the student council, while Fatah’s list got only 19.
The Hamas victory came as a surprise to the Fatah leadership in the West Bank, whose representatives are now demanding an inquiry into the reasons that led to the defeat of their list at the university.
Less than 48 hours after the results of the vote were announced, PA security forces in the West Bank arrested Jihad Salim, a representative of the Islamic Bloc at Bir Zeit University.
The Islamic Bloc issued a statement in which it accused the PA security forces of torturing Salim and called for his immediate release.
The Islamic Bloc said that the arrest of Salim shows that Fatah does not accept the results of the Bir Zeit University election.
Fathi Qar’awi, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, predicted that the Bir Zeit election would be the last in the West Bank. He claimed that the PA leadership has decided to call off elections at all campuses to stop Hamas from winning.
“Had the Palestinian Authority known that the Islamic Bloc would win, they would have used weapons to stop that,” he said.
Sources close to Hamas said that PA security forces have also summoned for interrogation a number of students who are affiliated with the Islamic Bloc in various parts of the West Bank.
In a related development, Hamas supporters claimed that another West Bank university, An-Najah, has called off planned elections for its student council out of fear that the Islamic Bloc would win.
They said that the administration of An-Najah University in Nablus decided to call off the elections under “false pretexts” for the third time in recent months.
However, a spokesman for the university denied that the decision to call off the vote was related to the Hamas victory at Bir Zeit University. The spokesman blamed tensions between rival factions for the delay, adding that a special committee has been set up to study the issue.