Palestinians supporting Hamas chant slogans during a rally celebrating Hamas student supporters winning the student council election at Birzeit University in Ramallah.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority is holding in its prisons more than 160 Hamas men who were detained in the West Bank in recent weeks, according to sources close to Hamas.
The sources said that, since July 2, PA security forces arrested 245 Hamas supporters as part of a massive crackdown on the Islamist movement, of which 160 remain in custody. About 80 of those arrested are university students, the sources added.
They said that 23 detainees have gone on a hunger strike to protest against their incarceration.
Human rights groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have condemned the arrests and demanded an investigation into charges that some of the detainees had been tortured.
A committee made up of representatives of the detainees’ families said in a statement on Thursday that some of their sons have had their arms broken during interrogation.
The committee said that other detainees lost consciousness as a result of torture and have been transferred to various hospitals in the West Bank.
The committee launched a campaign titled “We didn’t forget you!” to demand the release of all “political” detainees and prisoners from PA detention centers.
Earlier this week, PA policemen prevented detainees’ families from staging a protest outside the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Ramallah. The families were planning to protest against the continued incarceration of their sons.
Hassan Yusef, a senior Hamas figure in the West Bank, called on the PA to immediately release all “political” detainees before the beginning of the Islamic feast of Id al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan. The feast begins on Friday.
Yusef said it is “inconceivable that the best of our men remain in Palestinian prisons guarded by Palestinian guards under the pretext that they harmed Israel’s security.” He described the ongoing crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank as a “crime against the fabric of Palestinian society.”
The top Hamas official also denied claims by the PA leadership that some of the detainees had planned to undermine the Palestinian government and create chaos and anarchy in the West Bank.