PA nabs over 300 Hamas suspects in Hebron attack

Terror group evacuates Gaza installations, expecting retaliation as PA security forces undertake crackdown with help from Fatah gunmen.

bullet holes terror attack 311 Ap (photo credit: Associated Press)
bullet holes terror attack 311 Ap
(photo credit: Associated Press)
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested about 300 Palestinians following Tuesday night’s attack that killed four Israelis.
PA security sources and Hamas officials said the crackdown was the one of the largest operations of its kind against Hamas since the establishment of the PA in 1994.
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Hamas’s Al-Aksa TV station claimed that some of the detainees were transferred to hospitals after being brutally tortured by PA intelligence officers.
Hamas urged its supporters in the West Bank to resist arrest and to “confront” the PA policemen with force.
Immediately after the terrorist attack, hundreds of Palestinians – following evening prayers – took to the streets to celebrate the killings, chanting slogans in praise of the Hamas cell behind it.
In Gaza on Wednesday, Hamas evacuated many of its security and civilian installations in anticipation of an Israeli retaliatory operation, Palestinian journalists in the Strip told The Jerusalem Post.
Many of Hamas’s senior political and security officials have also gone into hiding to avoid being targeted by Israel, the journalists said.
The PA’s official news agency, Wafa, meanwhile, referred to the shooting attack, which has been claimed by Izzadin Kassam, Hamas’s armed wing, as a “military operation.”
PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have both condemned the “operation,” but refrained from calling it a terrorist attack.
Hamas accused Abbas of betraying the Palestinians by condemning the “heroic” attack and ordering the arrest of dozens of Palestinians.
Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction hinted on Wednesday that Hamas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had colluded in carrying out the attack that killed four Israelis from Beit Hagai.
“Hamas directly backs the position of the Israeli government,” said Ahmed Assaf, a prominent spokesman for Fatah in the West Bank. “Hamas’s goal is to drag Israel to launch retaliatory strikes so as to destroy the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.”
The spokesman said that the timing of the attack, on the eve of the launch of direct talks between the PA and Israel in Washington, was “suspicious” and in violation of the national interests of the Palestinians. Hamas, he added, was carrying out the agenda of a “hostile security agency.”
Assaf claimed that Hamas’s terrorist attacks were always designed to help Israeli governments find an excuse to avoid fulfilling their obligations toward the peace process.
Many of those who were rounded up by the PA security services are Hamas activists and supporters who had been released from Israeli prisons over the past few years.
A source close to Hamas in the West Bank published a list containing the names of more than 250 detainees who have been arrested by the Palestinians since Tuesday night.
A PA security official in Ramallah confirmed that a “major security operation” was under way to “destroy Hamas’s military infrastructure” in the West Bank and prevent the Islamist movement from extending its control beyond the Gaza Strip.
The official told the Post that the PA security forces were working “in full coordination” with their Israeli counterparts to capture the perpetrators of the terrorist attack and eliminate Hamas’s armed cells.
Eyewitnesses claimed that Fatah gunmen were taking part in the massive crackdown on Hamas in the Hebron area. They said that the gunmen had been recruited to help the PA’s security services track down the cell that was responsible for the attack.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the Fatah-dominated security forces, denied that the arrests were linked to Tuesday night’s attack or to the political affiliations of the detainees. He also rejected claims that over 250 Palestinians had been taken into custody by the PA security forces in the past 24 hours.