The majority of Hamas detainees arrested by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the West Bank since June have been released, sources close to Hamas have told The Jerusalem Post.
According to the sources, not a single Hamas detainee has been put on trial so far.
In a bid to defuse tensions with Hamas on the eve of the peace conference in Annapolis, the Palestinian Authority on Sunday also released three Hamas members from prison.
The decision to release the Hamas men was taken by the PA leadership in Ramallah shortly before Abbas and members of the Palestinian negotiating team headed to the US to participate in the conference.
The decision was taken in spite of Hamas's increased threats, in the past few days, to foil the peace conference. Hamas spokesmen have also stepped up their criticism of Abbas, warning him against making any concessions to Israel
during the conference.
One of the three men who were released was Ahmed Dolah, a senior Hamas leader from Nablus. He was arrested more than three months ago in the context of a massive PA clampdown on Hamas figures and institutions in the West Bank.
The other two who were released Sunday were Ala al-Titi and Assid Amarneh, both from Hamas. The two, who work for Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV in Hebron, were arrested by the PA security forces 30 days ago.
The release of the three came as a surprise even to Hamas leaders. Only a day earlier, the PA security forces prevented two senior Hamas officials, Hassan Abu Kwaik and Faraj Rumaneh, from holding a press conference in Ramallah. The two were briefly detained and warned against making public appearances against the Annapolis conference.
Despite Abbas's latest gesture, Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip continued to issue condemnations of the Annapolis conference.
"The Palestinians won't recognize any agreement reached at Annapolis," Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri told a women's rally in Gaza City. "We will never give up the right of return for the refugees. We will never surrender Jerusalem. Anyone who makes these concessions is a traitor."
Another Hamas official, Ashraf Abu Dayyeh, said his movement was planning a series of rallies in the Gaza Strip over the next few days to protest against the Annapolis conference. He expressed confidence that the majority of the Palestinians would reject whatever agreement is reached at the conference.
However, sources in the Gaza Strip said Hamas was facing difficulties in persuading other radical factions in joining the anti-Annapolis protests. According to these sources, leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine have rejected Hamas's call to participate in public rallies against the conference. The leaders of the two radical groups justified their decision by arguing that they did not want to deepen divisions among the Palestinians.
Five PLO factions warned Sunday against turning the Annapolis conference into a platform for normalizing relations between Israel and the Arab world. The factions described the conference as a "conspiracy" against the Palestinians.
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