Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas supporters in West Bank

At least 55 Hamas supporters arrested in aftermath of explosion that targeted PM convoy in Gaza Strip.

Palestinian security forces
'Political detention deepens unreasonable disputes' said Hasan Khreisheh, member of Palestinian Legislative Council [File: Reuters]

Dozens of Hamas supporters and activists have been detained in the West Bank over the past two weeks following an attack on the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister’s convoy in Gaza on March 13.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Hamas of being behind the attack on Rami Hamdallah’s motorcade, calling it an “assassination attempt”.

Hamas denied the allegations and said it was launching an investigation to uncover who was behind the blast.

Almost two weeks after the attack, two suspects were killed in an operation carried out by Hamas security forces. They were identified as Anas Abu Khousa and Abdul Hadi al-Ashab, unaffiliated with any Palestinian political faction.

The attack and the subsequent recriminations marked a serious deterioration in relations between Hamas and the PA.

So far, at least 55 Palestinians have been arrested as part of a crackdown by the PA on Hamas supporters.

‘Arrests must stop’

Hasan Khreisheh, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank, told Al Jazeera that the arrest campaign by PA security forces is “incomprehensible and unjustified”.

“These arrests must be stopped in favour for a Palestinian united front to take a stance against the bigger issues at hand, such as US President Donald Trump‘s decision to move his country’s embassy to Jerusalem,” Khreisheh said.

“If the PA is serious about confronting these real issues, then they should stop the arrests,” he continued. “In light of what the Palestinian cause is going through, political detention deepens unreasonable disputes.”

The MP said the PA leadership and other factions must intervene to stop the political arrests.

Strained relations

Fatah, the ruling party within the PA, and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in October 2017, ending a decade of division that saw two parallel governments operating in Gaza and the West Bank, respectively.

But the deal was never fully implemented due to differences within the two political factions, which are the largest in Palestinian politics.

Analysts said the attack on Hamdallah’s convoy was intended to put a strain on reconciliation efforts.

Abdelsattar Qassam, a Palestinian analyst and professor of political science at the an-Najah University in Nablus, accused the PA of practicing tyranny.

“Political arrests in the West Bank represents an assault on people’s freedom of expression and in the formation of public opinion,” he told Al Jazeera.

Qassem pointed out that the Palestinian reconciliation cannot take place under the Oslo agreement, which he considers the source of civil infighting and rivalry among the Palestinians.

“The reconciliation is a theatre play whose objective is to entertain and waste time,” he said.

“As Palestinians, the solution right now is to hold elections, as it is the only option capable of bringing in a new leadership that will deal with the Palestinian people in a new way.”

Source: Al Jazeera