Hundreds of Hamas activists and supporters in the West Bank have been summoned to various branches of the Palestinian Authority security forces where they were requested to sign a document in which they pledge to refrain from publicly celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the founding of the Islamic movement.
A PA security official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that the decision to ban the Hamas celebrations was taken by the PA leadership. He noted that such celebrations were also banned over the past four years.
The official said that in Nablus alone, more than 600 Hamas supporters and activists were asked to sign a written statement in which they pledge to refrain from participating or organizing public events marking the Hamas anniversary this week.
He said that altogether, about 1,500 men and women have been warned that they would be arrested and prosecuted if they took part in any Hamas-affiliated rally in the West Bank.
A Hamas legislator in the West Bank told the Post that PA security forces have also arrested dozens of Hamas supporters over the past few days as a pre-emptive measure aimed at preventing public rallies and celebrations.
He said that in the past 48 hours alone, 25 Hamas supporters were arrested Nablus, Kalkilya, Ramallah and Hebron. Among those arrested was Muhammad Srour, former mayor of Ni'lin.
Hamas is planning a mass rally in Gaza City on Monday to mark its 22nd anniversary. Hamas representatives said last week that the Palestinians should expect "surprises" during the rally, but did not elaborate.
The decision to ban Hamas celebrations in the West Bank came only weeks after the movement banned Fatah supporters from marking the anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death.
Fatah officials said that Hamas's militias and security forces arrested scores of Arafat loyalists on the eve of the anniversary and warned that any public marking the occasion would be foiled.
In the past three years Hamas has also banned Fatah from holding public rallies and celebrations marking the anniversary of its founding.
In a related development, a row has erupted between the PA and the Hamas-run municipality of Nablus after the mayor announced that the municipal council's term has been extended by six months.
The term of the municipal council expires on December 24, when new local elections are supposed to be held in the PA territories. However, Hamas and Fatah have failed to agree on new elections.
Nablus Mayor Adli Yaish announced that the council's term in office had been extended by six months at the request of public and official institutions in the city. He said that he also consulted with the PA's Ministry for Local Government and the PA government headed by Prime Minister Salaam Fayad before he took the decision.
However, the PA government denied that it had approved the move. The decision also drew sharp criticism from PA and Fatah officials.