Palestinian security forces on Thursday arrested Sheikh Mustafa Abu Arra, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, in yet another sign of mounting tensions between the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza-based Islamist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Abu Arra, a resident of the town of Tubas in the Jordan Valley, was reportedly transferred to a Palestinian hospital after his arrest due to a deterioration in his health condition. He was arrested by the PA’s Preventive Security Service after being summoned for interrogation.
His daughter, Zuhur, said that her father’s health condition does not allow for him to be in prison. “My father suffers from a heart disease,” she said, noting that he had previously served time in Israeli prison.
Hamas called for the immediate release of Abu Arra and accused the PA of “disregarding civic and societal peace” by pursuing its security crackdown on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank.
Abu Arra was present in Jenin Refugee Camp when residents expelled two senior officials from the ruling Fatah faction, Mahmoud al-Aloul and Azzam al-Ahmed, and prevented them from attending the funerals of some of the Palestinians killed during the IDF’s operation there earlier this month. Some residents claimed that Abu Arra actually helped clam the situation and stopped gunmen from shooting at the two Fatah officials.
Hamas accused the PA leadership of “harming the unity of our people and sabotaging any progress towards achieving its goals of freedom and independence.” It said that the arrest of the senior Hamas official was an act of “disrespect of the symbols and prominent figures of the Palestinian people.”
PA has arrested at least 35 Hamas, PIJ members in recent weeks
On Wednesday night, the PA security forces arrested Jalal al-Halboni, a resident of Nablus who is also said to be affiliated with Hamas.
According to Palestinian sources, at least 35 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members have been arrested by the PA in the past few weeks.
Also Thursday, a Palestinian magistrate’s court in Ramallah ordered the release of two Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who were arrested by the PA security forces earlier this month. The arrest of the two men, Murad Malaisheh and Mohammed Barahmeh, sparked a wave of protests during which gunmen attacked a Palestinian police station in the village of Jaba’ near Jenin and set it on fire.
Friends of the two men claimed that they were arrested while they were on their way to join the fighting against Israeli soldiers in Jenin Refugee Camp.
The PA Governor of Jenin Akram Rajoub, however, denied the claim, saying the two men were arrested in Tubas, not Jenin Refugee Camp.
Malaisheh and Barahmeh are accused of illegal possession of weapons.
Maher al-Akhras, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, revealed on Thursday that the PA security forces have arrested 13 members of the organization in the past few days. On Wednesday, he said, the security forces arrested Arkam Khaled Ahmaro, 57, a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad official from Hebron. In Bethlehem, the Palestinian security forces arrested Arafat Zaoul and Nouh Zaoul, who are known as Palestinian Islamic Jihad activists in the city.
Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad said the “political arrests” carried out by the PA security forces could hinder efforts to hold a meeting of leaders of all Palestinian factions in Cairo later this month to discuss ways of achieving unity and forming a Palestinian unity government. The meeting was called by PA President Mahmoud Abbas during the IDF operation in Jenin Refugee Camp.
Hussam Badran, member of the Hamas political bureau, said the “political arrests” were a major obstacle to achieving Palestinian national unity. He warned that the PA security crackdown would have a negative impact on the upcoming meeting of the faction leaders in the Egyptian capital.
Eight Palestinian factions issued a joint statement in which they condemned the crackdown as a “dangerous breach of the law.” The factions urged the PA to halt the crackdown and release all the detainees.