The Islamic Jihad movement on Saturday accused the Palestinian Authority of arresting and harassing its members in the occupied West Bank.
Islamic Jihad said in a statement that PA security forces had arrested members in Jenin, Tulkarem, Ramallah, and Hebron governorates.
The statement alleged that the PA had summoned students and activists affiliated to Islamic Jihad and threatened to imprison them if they partake in political or student activities.
The statement also accused PA security forces of targeting Palestinians formerly held in Israeli prisons.
“Summoning prisoners after they have been freed from Israeli jails poses a question mark over how serious the PA is about defending Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody,” the statement said.
The accusations come after a spate of PA arrests across the occupied West Bank, which police insist has been aimed at criminal activity and not political opponents.
Spokesperson for Palestinian security services in the West Bank Major-General Adnan Dmeiri told Ma’an that Palestinian security services “never arrest any Palestinian because of affiliation to a political party or due to their political point of view.”
He said that all arrests were due to “criminal activity,” and that the judiciary system had “the final say in any charges, as according to the Palestinian penal code.”
Dmeiri also suggested that there had been fewer arrests than was widely suggested.
He accused Hamas and other political factions of “circulating black propaganda to protect their members who are involved in illegal activities.”
‘The Israeli Temper’
Many of the recent arrests have taken place in Area C, where Palestinian security forces have limited power.
Under the Oslo Accord, Israel has full civil and military authority in Area C, and Israeli forces rarely arrest Palestinian criminals who they do not deem a “security threat” to Israel.
International Crisis Group reported in 2010 that while Israel has in the past allowed Palestinian police forces to carry out limited operations in Area C, these were mostly for purposes of fighting political opponents, including members of Hamas, and rarely to combat ordinary crime.
As a result, Area C has for years harbored Palestinian criminals, including collaborators with Israel, the ICC report said.
The recent spate of arrests suggests that Israel has been allowing increased Palestinian police activity in Area C, although Islamic Jihad’s claims cast doubt on the nature of the arrests.
While Islamic Jihad alleges that the arrests are politically motivated, the PA says that they are targeting criminals, and suspected drug dealers are among those they have brought in.
In March, preceding the current spate of arrests, Israeli forces prevented Palestinian security forces from detaining suspected drug dealers in eastern Nablus, despite prior security coordination.
Asked why Israel was allowing greater Palestinian security activity in Area C, Dmeiri said: “I can’t explain the Israeli temper,” although he added: “It is never related to any political compromises between Israel and the PA.”
He suggested that the increased flexibility could be due to the fact that criminal activity that thrives in Area C was beginning to cross into Israel and was having a negative impact on Israel.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)