PA arrests 6 aides of Hamas speaker

Men nabbed after press event held by speaker Dwaik, most senior Hamas official in W. Bank.

aziz dwaik 311 (photo credit: Khaled Abu Toameh)
aziz dwaik 311
(photo credit: Khaled Abu Toameh)
Palestinian Authority security agents on Sundayarrested six men who work as aides to Palestinian Legislative Council(PLC) Speaker Aziz Dwaik.
Themen were arrested in Ramallah shortly after a press conference held byDwaik, who is Hamas's most senior representative in the West Bank.
They were taken into custody after the agents, who belong tothe PA's General Intelligence Service, intercepted two cars carryingDwaik and Hamas legislator Mahmoud Ramahai in Ramallah.
The six were identified as Firas Abed, Baha Farah, Khaldoun Mazloum, Murad Abu Baha, Ibrahim al-Sabi and Abdullah Ghanem.
Dwaikcondemned the arrest of his aides as "an act of piracy" and "an assaulton his parliamentary immunity." He also warned that the arrests couldharm efforts by some Arab countries to achieve "nationalreconciliation" between Hamas and Fatah.
Dwaik urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to "halt the process oflies and misinformation" regarding his desire to end the conflict withHamas. He added that the arrests were an indication of the "continuedmoral, political and security deterioration of the PalestinianAuthority policies in the West Bank."
ThePLC speaker expressed fear that the latest move against his staff waspart of a wider scheme aimed at launching a new offensive against Hamasin the Gaza Strip.
The arrests were prompted by Dwaik's announcement during thepress conference that the PLC would not be dissolved when its four-yearmandate expires on Monday. Dwaik also called for holding a new sessionof the PLC in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the request ofone-quarter of the legislators.
The PLC has not been able to meet over the past few years due to the crisis between Hamas and Fatah.
Dwaik urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to "haltthe process of lies and misinformation" regarding his desire to end theconflict with Hamas. He added that the arrests were an indication ofthe "continued moral, political and security deterioration of thePalestinian Authority policies in the West Bank."
ThePLC speaker expressed fear that the latest move against his staff waspart of a wider scheme aimed at launching a new offensive against Hamasin the Gaza Strip.
The arrests were prompted by Dwaik's announcement during thepress conference that the PLC would not be dissolved when its four-yearmandate expires on Monday. Dwaik also called for holding a new sessionof the PLC in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at the request ofone-quarter of the legislators.
The PLC has not been able to meet over the past few years due to the crisis between Hamas and Fatah.
Dwaik justified the decision to extend the mandate of the PLC byarguing that it ends only when newly-elected members of the parliamentare sworn in.
He also stressed the need to end divisions among thePalestinians and the formation of a Hamas-Fatah unity government. Hesaid that such a government was needed to prepare for new presidentialand parliamentary elections.
Dwaik and many Hamas legislators and officials were arrested byIsrael shortly after the abduction of IDF soldier St.-Sgt. GiladSchalit. However, most of them were released in the past few months.
Since Abbas's term in office expired in January 2009, Dwaik isseen by many Palestinians as acting president of the PA because thePalestinian constitution states clearly that the speaker of parliamentwould serve in the post for 60 days pending new elections.
But since his release from Israeli prison several months ago,the PA leadership has banned Dwaik from returning to work in his officeat the PLC headquarters in Ramallah.
Dwaik's call to convene the PLC was immediately rejected by thePA leadership. Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah legislator and closeadvisor to Abbas, said that the parliament should first determine itsposition toward Hamas's "coup" against the PA in the Gaza Strip.
He said that Fatah legislators were now holding consultationswith other parliamentary lists to convene a special session to condemnthe Hamas maneuver. Al-Ahmed strongly criticized Dwaik as one of theicons of the alleged coups and said he was "incompetent" to play anyrole in mediation efforts between Hamas and Fatah.
A senior aide to Abbas said he did not rule out the possibilitythat Dwaik and other Hamas legislators would be arrested "if theycontinued their provocations and attempts to undermine the status ofthe Palestinian Authority." He noted that as of Monday the Hamaslegislators would not be able to hide behind their parliamentaryimmunity.
The decision to arrest Dwaik's aides also came less than 48hours after the PA expressed concern over contacts between Westernersand Hamas. The PA was responding to a meeting last week between Dwaikand British businessman David Martin Abrahams in Hebron.
Abrahams said he came to see Dwaik and other Hamas leaders aspart of a mission to facilitate dialogue between the Islamist movementand the international community. A PA official in Ramallah warned thatsuch meetings were causing damage to the peace process and underminingthe standing of Abbas and Fatah.