Official: Move aimed at paving way for resumption of reconciliation talks.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Palestinian Authority security forces on Sunday began releasing Hamas detainees in the West Bank.
The decision to free the prisoners was taken by President Mahmoud Abbas as a gesture to Hamas on the occasion of the beginning of Ramadan, a PA official in Ramallah said.
The official added that the move was also aimed at paving the way for the resumption of reconciliation talks between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas.
Sources in Kalkilya said that 12 Hamas supporters were released from a local PA prison on Sunday.
Abbas's decision came hours after his prime minister, Salaam Fayad, announced that there were no "political" detainees in PA prisons in the West Bank. Hamas considers all its supporters who are being held without trial in PA jails as political detainees.
According to Hamas officials and human rights activists, the PA is holding more than 750 Palestinians without trial on suspicion of membership in Hamas or for openly criticizing the policies of Abbas and Fayad.
The PA claims that the detainees were targeted not because of their political affiliations, but because of their involvement in "criminal activities."
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the decision to release the detainees showed that Fayad was not telling the truth when he denied that the PA was holding people for political reasons.
Abu Zuhri said that reconciliation talks with Fatah would not be resumed unless all the detainees are released from Abbas's jails. He claimed that the PA was holding over 1,000 Hamas supporters in its prisons in the West Bank.
Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad announced that three of its men were arrested on Sunday by PA security forces in the northern West Bank.
The group identified the three as Muhammad Tanbouz, Amer Masharqa and Musab Abu Alti from the Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm.
According to the group, the men were arrested on suspicion of distributing financial aid to families of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
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