Palestinian Authority security services arrested dozens of Hamas supporters across the West Bank on Monday, sources from both sides said.
Hamas said in a statement that the arrests began on Sunday evening and continued into Monday, with detainees including students and academics.
A source inside the group’s headquarters, who asked to remain anonymous, told AFP: “We received information that 60 members of Hamas were arrested throughout the West Bank.”
A PA security force official, also requesting anonymity, confirmed around 40 arrests, without elaborating on details.
It is believed the arrests come in response to the detention of senior Fatah official Mamoon Sweidan by Hamas security forces in Gaza over the past few days.
PA security spokesperson Adnan Dmeiri told news agencies that the arrests were not politically motivated, claiming the suspects had broken the law.
The PA, which has its headquarters in Ramallah, has regularly detained Hamas members, including MPs, over the past few years.
But the ongoing crackdown is a sign of the failure of a nearly year-old unity deal between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the rival Fatah which dominates the PA.
Under last April’s unity deal, Hamas was to relinquish control of the Gaza Strip, paving the way for Palestinian general elections by the end of 2014.
But despite agreeing on a government of independents appointed in June, the deal stalled during a July-August war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel, and because of disputes over wages and control of the enclave.
The US-trained PA security forces have been plagued by accusations of excessive violence during arrest raids.
On Saturday two Palestinian men sustained gunshot injuries during an exchange of fire between suspected fugitives and Palestinian security officers, and last October, Bilal al-Rajabi, 25, was shot and killed during a PA raid in Hebron.
(Ma’an and agencies – www.maannews.net)