Hamas angered as supporters arrested by West Bank rival

20 Sep

Graduation ceremony in Jericho for West Bank security officers


by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza City

Reuters via Ma’an News Agency

19 September 2012

article abridged & re-edited

Hamas sharply criticised the arrest of dozens of its members by Palestinian Authority police in the West Bank on Wednesday, underscoring dire relations between the Islamist movement which governs Gaza and its Fatah rivals who dominate the Palestinian Authority ruling the West Bank.

President Mahmoud Abbas’s Western-aligned Palestinian Authority denied any political motives behind the round-up, which saw up to 71 people detained, saying criminals were targeted and many were freed after questioning.

The detentions came at a time of renewed friction between Hamas and Abbas.

West Bank officials say Abbas is particularly upset at developing ties between the Hamas leadership and the new authorities in Egypt. A delegation from Gaza met Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil in Cairo on Monday.

“Every day, Abbas surprises us, confirming that he is harming our people and our parties,” said senior Hamas lawmaker Ismail al-Ashqar, after news of the West Bank arrests.

He urged fellow Palestinians to “reject” Abbas and to “bring him before justice for his anti-national deeds”.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said 71 Hamas supporters had been detained in the past 24 hours.

Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the security services loyal to Abbas, told Reuters the number was exaggerated, but did not offer any alternative figures.

“Arrests were made all over the West Bank in a legal fashion, involving cases of possession of weapons, incitement, money laundering and attempts to transfer the Gaza takeover into the West Bank,” he said.

Abbas and Hamas announced they were ready to lay aside their differences in 2011 and overcome the divisions that have led to a near total schism between the West Bank and Gaza.

The split is widely denounced by ordinary Palestinians, but all efforts to make good on last year’s accord have foundered, including an attempt by the new Islamist leaders in Cairo to broker a deal between the two sides.

Abbas’s allies fear Cairo is ready to side with Hamas, which could ultimately damage their own standing elsewhere in the Arab world. They looked on with concern as the Egypt’s prime minister held talks on Monday with Gaza’s Hamas premier, Ismail Haniya.

“Holding economic, political and security talks with Ismail Haniya sends a wrong message to the Hamas leadership in Gaza, encouraging it to continue neglecting Palestinian reconciliation,” said Saleh Raafat, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The Fatah-dominated PLO has been recognised by the United Nations as Palestine’s sole representative abroad for almost four decades.

In an effort to regain the political initiative, Abbas is due to address the UN next week and seek recognition of a Palestinian state as a non-member of the world body – the sort of status already granted to the Vatican City.

Hamas has dismissed such diplomatic moves as a waste of time.

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