Fatah-Hamas tensions return despite fresh unity deal

Hamas says PA is arresting more of its followers in the West Bank; Islamists accused of preventing Gaza-based Fatah leaders from leaving.

Haniyeh  and Abbas waving 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Haniyeh and Abbas waving 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
One day after Hamas and Fatah signed an Egyptian-brokered reconciliation agreement in Cairo, tensions between them appear to have returned, casting doubts about the prospects of the accord.
Hamas on Thursday accused the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank of arresting more of the Islamist movement’s supporters.
Palestinians celebrate unity deal on streets of Gaza
Netanyahu: Fatah-Hamas unity a blow to peace process
Fatah said Hamas authorities had prevented five of its senior officials from leaving the Gaza Strip for the West Bank.
The renewed tensions came as Hamas and Fatah representatives prepared to begin talks about the formation of a unity government that would consist largely of technocrats with no political affiliation.
A Hamas official on Thursday accused the PA security forces of arresting dozens of Hamas supporters in the past few days in the West Bank. Hamas said its supporters were being detained despite the decision by its government to release scores of Fatah followers held in the Gaza Strip.
Wasfi Qabaha, a Hamas official in the West Bank, said that in the past few days about 20 Hamas supporters had been arrested by PA security forces in different parts of the West Bank. Another 60 men had been summoned for questioning by the PA security forces.
Qabaha said that 350 to 400 Hamas supporters were being held in PA prisons without trial and in violation of the spirit of the reconciliation agreement.
“The arrests are aimed at poisoning and foiling the atmosphere of reconciliation,” Qabaha charged.
He noted that many of the Hamas detainees had previously served time in Israeli prisons and were arrested by the PA security forces upon their release.
Hamas said that in Hebron, PA security forces on Wednesday arrested Sheikh Walid Amr, the imam of the mosque in the village of Majd. The PA security forces also summoned 25 university students from the Hebron area for questioning next week, a source close to Hamas said. In the Nablus area, PA security forces arrested a number of Palestinians who hoisted Hamas flags during a wedding in the village of Karawat Bani Hanssan, the source said, adding that some of the detainees were less than 13 years old.
Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces in the West Bank, said that many of the Hamas detainees would remain in custody because they had already been sentenced to prison terms by PA courts. He said the detainees would be released only if President Mahmoud Abbas issued a “presidential decree” ordering them freed.
In another sign of renewed tensions between the two parties, Fatah on Thursday accused Hamas of banning five senior Fatah officials from leaving the Gaza Strip. The five were supposed to travel to Ramallah to attend a meeting of the Fatah Revolutionary Council. Fatah said the ban violated the reconciliation accord.

The officials arrived in the morning at the Palestinian side of the Erez checkpoint, but were turned back by Hamas security officers despite appeals from Egyptian authorities, Fatah activists said. They identified the five as Amal Hamad, Abdel Hamid al-Masri, Muhammad al-Nahhal, Tahrir al-Haj and Zeinab al-Wazeer.
Hamas later rescinded its decision and allowed the Fatah members to travel to the West Bank, Fatah said.