Hamas heads 224.88.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Palestinian Authority on Thursday decided to release 25 Hamas prisoners as a goodwill gesture on the eve of Id al-Fitr, the festival ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
PA security officials said the Hamas men had been detained over the past few months on suspicion of involvement in "security-related" violations. They said the Hamas prisoners had been held by the PA General Intelligence Force in the West Bank.
Col. Abdallah Kmail, head of the General Intelligence Force in Nablus, the largest Palestinian city in the West Bank, said only four Hamas men would remain in prison after the release of the 25 prisoners.
He said the Hamas prisoners had handed over their weapons and other military equipment to the General Intelligence Force. "We have seized more than 25 pistols and rifles, in addition to other explosive devices," he said. "Nine modern weapons were confiscated over the past two days."
Kmail denied that the Hamas men had been detained for "political reasons." He said all the suspects had been involved with illegal weapons. Any Hamas member who surrenders his weapons to the PA's security forces in the West Bank would not spend "even one hour in detention," he added.
Kmail said the 25 Hamas men would be released on bail only after agreeing to sign a pledge to refrain from carrying out military operations.
Hamas accused the PA security forces of "colluding" with Israel to target Hamas members in the West Bank. The Islamist movement said some of its members had been arrested by the IDF shortly after they were released from PA prisons. It said the most recent case was that of Hussein al-Sheikh, a 37-year-old Hamas official from Bethlehem who was arrested by the IDF days after he was released from a PA prison.
Forty-five Hamas members have been arrested by the IDF in recent weeks after being released from PA prisons in the West Bank, according to sources close to Hamas.
In an unrelated development, Hamas accused Fatah of being behind a botched attempt to assassinate Khaled Abu Hilal, a former Fatah operative in the Gaza Strip with close links to Hamas. Abu Hilal, who broke away from Fatah and formed his own splinter group called Fatah al-Yasser, previously served as spokesman for Hamas's Interior Ministry.
Hamas said a number of Fatah activists who were arrested in the Gaza Strip this week admitted that they had received instructions from the Fatah leadership in Ramallah to kill Abu Hilal. It said Hamas security forces had managed to crack several armed Fatah cells that were planning to launch an insurgency against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.