PA detains dozens of Hamas members in West Bank

Alleged detention of Hamas members comes at time of renewed friction; Abbas says arrests targeted criminals, no political motive.

Haniyeh waves to supporters after Friday speech in Cairo 390 (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Haniyeh waves to supporters after Friday speech in Cairo 390
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank arrested dozens of Hamas supporters on Tuesday night, including many who had just been released from Israeli prison, Palestinians said.
The arrests were carried out on the same day that the PA leadership in Ramallah called for a day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
According to the Addameer Human Rights Association, it was the PA’s General Intelligence Service and Preventive Security force that carried out the arrests.
A PA security official confirmed that “many suspects” had been rounded up for interrogation in the past 24 hours, but refused to provide further details.
The crackdown came after PA officials in Ramallah accused Hamas of exploiting the recent protests against the high cost of living to topple the PA.
Hamas has denied any link to the protests.
The human rights group said that among those arrested were political activists, journalists and researchers.
It added that PA security forces had interrogated the former prisoners immediately after their release from Israeli prison.
Among those arrested, the group said, was the recently freed Fuad al-Khafash, who heads a research center specializing in defending the rights of Palestinian inmates in those prisons.
Walid Khaled, a Palestinian journalist, was also taken into custody, the group said, noting that he had been freed from Israeli prison only two weeks ago.
Palestinian sources said that the latest clampdown was the biggest the PA security forces had carried out against “political activists” and Palestinians who had served time in Israeli prison.
The sources said that 11 Palestinians had been arrested in Kalkilya, 16 in Tulkarm, 11 in Nablus, 14 in Salfit, five in Hebron, one in Ramallah and another in Jenin.
The human rights group said the crackdown was the result of security coordination between the PA and Israel. It said the arrests had taken place for “political reasons,” and called for the immediate release of all the detainees.
The West Bank Palestinian Prisoner’s Committee strongly condemned the PA’s security clampdown and warned that such measures would deepen divisions among Palestinians.
The committee said it was particularly outraged by the arrest of a large number of Palestinians who had participated in a hunger strike while they were in Israeli prisons earlier this year.
“The arrest of these Palestinians is a crime that should not be allowed to pass without a response,” the committee said. “This is a disgraceful act of treason.”
Salah Bardaweel, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said that the arrests were in the context of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s effort to “export his internal crisis following the public outcry against corruption and oppression in the West Bank.” Bardaweel said he also saw a connection between the mass arrests and Abbas’s criticism of Egypt for receiving Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Cairo earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Abbas expressed outrage over Haniyeh’s invitation to Cairo. Abbas summoned the Egyptian envoy to Ramallah, Yasser Othman, telling him that Haniyeh was not the legitimate prime minister and calling on Egypt to stop dealing with the Hamas leader.
Prof. Abdul Sattar Qassem, who is affiliated with Hamas, said that Abbas ordered the arrests after Israel promised to provide him with financial aid.
“The arrests have one goal – to protect the occupation and suppress Palestinian resistance,” he added.