The Palestinian Authority is threatening to deport 50 Hamas leaders from the West Bank, the Islamist movement claimed on Sunday.
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The unprecedented threat is seen as yet another sign of mounting tensions between the Fatah-dominated PA in the West Bank and the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip.
It’s not clear to where the Hamas leaders would be deported. The PA security forces would not be able to carry out such a step without coordinating with Israel.
A senior PA security official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post
that he was unaware of any decision to deport Hamas members. The official accused the Hamas leadership of “lies and fabrications.”
Since Saturday, scores of Hamas officials and activists have been summoned to the headquarters of the PA’s General Intelligence Service in Ramallah, where they were reportedly informed that they may be deported.
Among those who were threatened with deportation are Sheikh Hussein Abu Kwaik, Aziz Kayed, Osama al- Hamad, Muhammad Hamdan, Khaled Ghaithan, Khalil Brafili, Ahmed Zeid, Yusef Kifaya, Khaldoun Barghouti and Ismail al-Wawi.
Abu Kwaik, a senior political figure in Hamas, said that he and many of his colleagues were forced to wait for hours at the headquarters of the GIS before they were notified that they might be deported.
He described the threat as “ridiculous” and said he filed a complaint with a top Fatah official who was appointed by the PA leadership to investigate financial corruption and abuse of power.
“After a long wait, a security officer came out of the room and told us that we might be deported,” Abu Kwaik said. “The officer told us that we would have to fill out special forms requiring each one of us to choose the country he prefers to be deported to.”
Abu Kwaik said that he believed that the deportation threat came in response to an announcement by Hamas that it would demand that its detainees being held in PA prisons in the West Bank be included in a prisoner swap with Israel in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Hamas claims that the various branches of the West Bank’s PA security forces have arrested thousands of the group’s supporters in the past few years. The PA’s refusal to release the detainees, many of whom are being held without trial, has spoiled efforts to end the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
Sources close to Hamas said that the threat may have been a “joke” by one of the security officers in Ramallah.
The Hamas government, however, strongly condemned the threat and accused the PA of “endorsing Israeli policies and measures.”
Ehab al-Ghissin, spokesman for the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in the Gaza Strip, said the threat “was an indication that what happened to our grandfathers, who were deported from Palestine in 1948,” could repeat itself.
He also pointed out that Israel had deported to Lebanon hundreds of Hamas members in the early 1990s.
“The Palestinian Authority is now endorsing Israel’s criminal policy,” Ghissin charged. “The Palestinian Authority wants to help Israel Judaize Jerusalem and build settlements and deport more Palestinian leaders.”
Ismail Radwan, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, warned that Hamas and its armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, “would have no mercy” on the Fatah-controlled security forces in the West Bank.
Addressing these forces, Radwan said, “You must return to the right path and reconsider your ways, because neither the people nor the resistance would have mercy on you.”
Aziz Dwaik, the most senior Hamas official in the West Bank, denounced the deportation threat as an “assault on Islamic and national values and principles.” He said that the threat was “extremely dangerous because it’s the Israeli occupation that was always accustomed to deporting and displacing Palestinians.”
Dwaik added that he could not comprehend “how any Palestinian could threaten a Palestinian with deportation from his homeland.”
He cautioned that such a move would see rival Palestinian parties “enter the phase of breaking each other’s bones.”
Fatah, meanwhile, accused Hamas security forces of arresting 10 top Fatah representatives in the Gaza Strip as of Saturday.
A Fatah spokesman said that the arrests were apparently aimed at
preventing the faction from celebrating the 46th anniversary of its
creation. He identified the men who were “abducted” by Hamas as Ibrahim
Tahrawi, Musa Hils, Tahseen Jabour, Yasser Juaidi, Imad Maslamani, Rami
a-Sawisi, Saed a-Sawwaf, Ahmed al- Hawaiti, Amin al-Mughni and Imad
Last weekend, Hamas also detained Fayez Abu Aitah, the Fatah spokesman
in the Gaza Strip, who has been under house arrest since he returned to
his home in Gaza City earlier this year.