Wednesday, June 27, 2007
From Khalid Amayreh in East Jerusalem
"AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Reliable Palestinian sources on Wednesday intimated that PA security officials in the West Bank were planning to carry out arrests of Hamas supporters in Al-Khalil (Hebron) region. Al-Khalil is the largest territory of the West Bank, with over 600,000 people, many of them loyal supporters of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas).The sources said the arrests would target several pro-Hamas activists who had been arrested several times by the Israeli occupation army.
The PA has been carrying out reprisal attacks on Hamas supporters and their property throughout the Wes Bank ever since Hamas fighters two weeks ago forestalled what many have been anticipating, namely a coup by American-backed former Gaza strong man Muhammad Dahlan to overthrow the Hamas-led national unity government.
Following the takeover of Gaza by Hamas fighters on 14 June, PA chairman Abbas dismissed the democratically-elected government and formed an “emergency government” headed by Western-backed Salam Fayyadh.
Masked men affiliated with Fatah, armed with automatic rifles and escorted by regular PA security forces, have been raiding homes and businesses of pro-Hamas activists throughout the West Bank, arresting hundreds of people and in many cases ransacking and vandalizing businesses, offices and institutions.
The PA said the arrests were meant to suppress Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank. However, observers contend that the real aim of the arrests was to exact revenge on Hamas in retaliation for what happened in Gaza.
The arrests of Hamas supporters, nearly all of them ordinary activists with absolutely no connection with the group’s military arm, are often carried out despite the fact that all Palestinian population centers in the West Bank, including the PA headquarters in Ramallah, are under full Israeli military control. This fact has prompted some Hamas officials to accuse the PA of acting as a quisling entity and carrying out the “dirty jobs” on Israel’s behalf. Accusations as such gain credence among ordinary Palestinians as Israel and the PA seem to target very much the same people.
The PA, said sources within the Fatah organization, hopes that by arresting and hounding Hamas activists, Israel will give more “concessions” to Chairman Abbas.
Israel is holding as many as 11,000 Palestinians in its vast net of detention and concentration camps, especially the notorious Kitziot internment facilities in the Negev desert.
Meanwhile, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has called on Israel to free imprisoned West Bank Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi in the hope that his release would strengthen Fatah vis-à-vis Hamas. Israel reportedly has already agreed to release as many as 250 Fatah activists from Israeli prisons as part of efforts to bolster Abbas against Hamas. However, Israeli sources have indicated that most of the would-be freed prisoners are “petty activists” who didn’t commit serious “security violations” and whose prison terms are nearing expiration anyway.
More to the point, Israel reportedly has refused to remove a significant number of roadblocks in the West Bank as demanded by Abbas. An Israeli army commander was quoted recently as saying that “our security is more important than strengthening Abbas.”
The PA hoped that the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, which took place on Monday, 25 June, would result in a breakthrough in “peace efforts” with Israel. However, the failure of the summit, at least with regard to reviving the moribund political process, is viewed as a real disappointment for Abbas who had thought the US and EU might have exerted real pressure on Israel to give “important political concessions” to the PA, if only to enhance his popularity among Palestinians."