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(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas is accusing the Palestinian Authority of kidnapping the wife of a Hamas member to pressure him into turning himself in.
PA forces in Nablus kidnapped Alaa Jarrar, the wife of Omar Al-Hanbalim, on Sunday, a day before Al-Hanbali was released from an Israeli prison, Hamas said on the Omama Web site.
The report said this was done so that Al-Hanbali would be put under pressure to turn himself in to the PA security forces, that are mostly loyal to Fatah.
"This is not the first time that security agencies in the West Bank are arresting relatives of wanted Hamas people to pressure them to give themselves in," Ihab Al-Ghu'sein, spokesman of the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza, told The Media Line.
The incident underlines the escalating tension between Fatah and Hamas.
Al-Ghu'sein said Al-Hanbali is being pursued solely for political reasons, because he is a Hamas member.
"They are trying to arrest relatives, especially women and old people," he said. "They have no ethics, no moral values and we ask all human rights organizations to pressure the security agencies to stop arresting Hamas people."
"They just don't want the Hamas in the West Bank," he said.
Suggestions have been made that the kidnapped woman is not only a hostage of the Fatah-Hamas rivalry, but is also being used as a pawn in the competition between competing Palestinian security agencies.
Muna Mansour, a Nablus-based member of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of the Hamas list, said this case is also indicative of an inner power struggle between two branches of the Fatah security forces.
"The PA submitted a request that [Al-Hanbali] turn himself in the moment he is released from an Israeli prison," she told The Media Line. "But there's a struggle between the intelligence and the preventative security branches over who he services," she said, explaining that both branches wanted to take credit for his arrest.
The preventative security branch kidnapped Jarrar so that Al-Hanbali would turn himself in to them and not to one of the other branches, which is what eventually transpired, she said.
It is unclear whether Jarrar is still being held by the preventative security forces.
The capture is also a sign of the existing strain between Hamas and Fatah, despite ongoing reconciliation talks in Cairo. Fatah is accusing Hamas of thwarting ongoing Egyptian-mediated reconciliation talks in Cairo.
Hamas and Fatah are embroiled in a standoff over who holds sway in the Palestinian territories. More recently, the Fatah-dominated PA and Hamas have exchanged accusations of arrests and plots to undermine each others' leaderships and security forces.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Monday said his security forces had broken up a spy network in Gaza that was serving Israel via Ramallah. The cells were channeling information to the office of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and from there it was passed onto Israel, Haniyeh said.
He alleged that most of those seized were PA employees.
"They are members of the past security agencies and take orders from their leaders in the West Bank," Al-Ghu'sein said.
He said around 90 suspects have been rounded up in the Gaza Strip over the past 40 days.
Hamas says there is documented proof that the detained cell members were tasked with orchestrating the assassination of senior Hamas members.
On the other hand, Hamas members arrested by the PA admitted last week to tracking the movements of Abbas and collecting information on his security arrangements.
PA officials say Hamas was planning to assassinate Abbas and attack PA institutions.
The PA is concerned that Hamas is setting the stage to take over the West Bank, in a similar way to its coup in the Gaza Strip in June 2007.
In a televised interview on July 1, Abbas said Hamas was plotting to overthrow his regime and was stockpiling weapons and building a bank of targets.
A new round of talks between Fatah and Hamas is expected to begin on July 25.