PA official: Israel made 'big mistake'

Official bemoans the fact that the Gaza operation ended without Hamas being ousted from power.

Abbas worried sad 248.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas worried sad 248.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Israel made a "big mistake" by ending Operation Cast Lead without overthrowing the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah said on Thursday. His remarks came as the PA security forces intensified their crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank. "It was a big mistake to end the war this way," the official said. "The fact that Hamas is still in power is bad for all." The PA leadership had decided to take draconian measures to thwart any attempt by Hamas to stir unrest in the West Bank, the official also said. "There's no room for these Hamas thugs in the West Bank," he said. "We won't allow Hamas to turn the West Bank into another Islamic republic." PA representatives have accused Hamas of killing and kneecapping dozens of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks. During the past few days, the PA security forces arrested more than 30 Hamas supporters and figures in different parts of the West Bank. One of those who arrested was Khaled Amayreh, a journalist from the Hebron area, who appeared on a local TV station and allegedly voiced sympathy for Hamas. Amayreh was released after being held in a prison cell for 55 hours. Other detainees include university students and teachers, as well as mosque imams and leading Muslim figures, especially in the northern West Bank. Among the detainees are Sheikh Omar Manna', the imam of the largest mosque in Tulkarm, and Adnan al-Safarini, an employee of the PA's Ministry of Wakf Affairs. Sources close to Hamas said the majority of the detainees were being held in PA security installations where some of them had been "brutally tortured" by their interrogators. The sources said that Islamboli Badir, the son of slain Islamic Jihad official Riad Islamboli, required medical treatment after being tortured with electrical shocks by members of the PA's General Intelligence Service. According to the sources, at least 25 Hamas supporters were arrested by the PA security forces in the West Bank almost immediately after they were released from Israeli prison. They include Hussein Dib, a school teacher from a village near Tulkarm, and Hani Barabrah and Ala al-A'araj, both students at An-Najah University in Nablus. The sources said that more than 200 Hamas supporters have been rounded up by forces loyal to PA president Mahmoud Abbas since the beginning of Operation Cast Lead. On Wednesday night, the PA security forces in Nablus arrested Sheikh Fayad al-Aghbar, a prominent Hamas figure in the city. The PA said the man was arrested for allegedly forging checks and defrauding local residents. Palestinians in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post the PA security forces refused to grant them permission to demonstrate in solidarity with the Gaza Strip residents unless they agreed to chant slogans in favor of Abbas and raise Fatah flags. Earlier this week, the PA leadership organized a rally in the center of Ramallah in support of Abbas and Fatah. Most of those who participated were civil servants and school children who were instructed by the PA to attend the rally. Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, on Thursday launched a scathing attack on Hamas and accused it of seeking to establish an "emirate of darkness" in the Gaza Strip. Abed Rabbo, who often serves as a spokesman for Abbas, told reporters in Ramallah that Hamas was "exploiting" the blood of the Palestinians in Gaza to cover up for its plan to permanently separate the West Bank from the Strip. "We won't allow the conspiracy of splitting the West Bank from the Gaza Strip to pass," he warned. "We won't allow Hamas to destroy our national project, regardless of the price." Abed Rabbo accused Hamas of directing its guns against Fatah activists in Gaza before and after the cease-fire with Israel. Hamas had turned hospitals, schools and universities in the Gaza Strip into temporary centers for holding and torturing Fatah detainees on suspicion of collaboration with Israel, he said.