The Palestinian Authority on Saturday defended its arrest of dozens of Hamas members across the occupied West Bank, claiming they had been carried out for “security reasons.”
Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the PA security services, accused Hamas of plotting to create instability in the West Bank and told Ma’an the arrests would continue “as long as there is a threat to the security of our homeland.”
His comments came a day after a senior Hamas official accused the PA of arresting more than 100 Hamas affiliates.
Izzat al-Rishaq said in a statement that the detentions were a “stab in the back” for Palestinians during the holy month of Ramadan, referring to them as a “favor” for Israel.
Dmeiri confirmed that dozens of Hamas members had been detained in recent days, adding that some had been released while the others remained under interrogation.
“Only a judge can decide to either free them or try them, if they will be found guilty of breaching security,” Dmeiri told Ma’an.
He accused Hamas of seeking to create instability in the West Bank while maintaining a ceasefire with Israel in the Gaza Strip, where the movement is the de facto governing body.
Dmeiri said that Hamas security services in Gaza “set up checkpoints and go after resistance fighters who launch missiles at Israel. Meanwhile, Hamas once again sends cells to destroy the West Bank.”
His comments apparently referred to a string of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and military in the occupied West Bank.
No verified statement has claimed responsibility for the attacks and Hamas has denied its involvement.
Dmeiri said that Hamas supporters will be charged with breaching the peace and “anyone who illegally possesses weapon will be sued according to the law.”
Representatives of Palestinian factions including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine held a joint press conference in Gaza City on Saturday to express their condemnation of the arrests.
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said that Hamas affiliates detained across the West Bank included former prisoners, scholars and students.
He alleged that their arrest was “an attempt break the stalemate of negotiations and pay court to (the Israeli) occupation.”
The PLO last week appointed a committee to consult Palestinian factions on forming a new unity government, after the current government proved incapable of overcoming divisive issues.
However, Hamas has said that the Fatah-led PLO is the wrong body to be forming a government, and the consultations have yielded little consensus.
A senior Islamic Jihad leader, Khalid al-Batsh, said that the recent detentions were minimizing chances of success for a national consensus government and would never be an appropriate means for maintaining peace.
“We denounce detentions and urge President Abu Mazin (Mahmoud Abbas) to stop the detention campaign and free all detainees,” al-Batsh said.
A senior PFLP leader, Muhammad Tuman, added: “The detention of heroes and noble people cannot be accepted.”
He urged Palestinian forces to support resistance, “which some have been trying to thwart through security coordination (with Israel) despite an obvious decision to stop it by the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council.”
‘Not Politically Motivated’
However, Dmeiri maintained that the detentions were “not politically motivated.”
“Anyone who poses a threat to the country’s security will come under legal procedures regardless of their factional affiliation, as security, public and private institutions are sacred to us.”
Thursday night’s first major detention raid by PA security forces came shortly after Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence service released a report saying it had uncovered a Hamas cell in the Nablus area.
The report said it had detained around 40 alleged Hamas members in recent months.
The Fatah-dominated PA and Israeli security forces have coordinated operations since the Oslo Accords in 1993, which planned for a gradual power transfer in the occupied West Bank from Israeli forces to the PA over the course of five years.
More than 20 years on, however, Hamas and other factions continue to accuse the PA of aligning with Israel’s goals in the occupied West Bank.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)