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PA 'arrests scores' across West Bank

Sept. 19, 2012 2:45 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 21, 2012 11:13 A.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Hamas and a Palestinian rights group said Wednesday that security services in the West Bank initiated a wide-scale arrest campaign targeting dozens of people.

In a statement, the Islamic movement said Palestinian Authority security forces detained five members of Hamas in Nablus including the director of a prisoner rights group. The rival party identified the official as Fuad al-Khuffash of the Ahrar center for prisoners studies.

The Palestinian prisoners group Addameer said al-Khuffash is a human rights defender who was released in April from 10 months in Israeli prison, only to be arrested by the PA overnight.

According to the group, PA security forces arrested at least 59 people in the raids including 16 from Tulkarem, 14 from Salfit, 11 from Qalqilya and 11 from Nablus.

In Gaza City, Hamas party leaders said about 60 Hamas members were detained in the West Bank.

Sami Abu Zuhri, spokesman of the Hamas government which administrates Gaza, told Ma'an that the campaign was aimed at blocking national reconciliation.

"This is clear evidence proving that Fatah's claims about implementing national reconciliation are incorrect. Fatah is trying to hide its political failure, its tense relationship with Arab countries," he said.

Hamas called on Fatah to stop its "dangerous" campaign and asked Egypt to intervene.

A spokesman for the Palestinian Authority security forces did not immediately return calls.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights condemned the campaign and called on the Palestinian government in Ramallah to fully comply with the law and stop political arrests.

In a statement, the group said Palestinian Basic Law prohibits "arresting, checking, detaining or limiting the freedom of any person or preventing his/her movement without a judicial warrant."

The group called for the release of all political detainees in the West Bank as well as Gaza.

Egypt tensions

The arrests came a day after Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh and the party chief-in-exile Khaled Mashaal arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials.

The talks drew criticism from President Mahmoud Abbas who on Tuesday urged the Egyptians to deal only with one representative of the Palestinian people.

During a meeting in his office in Ramallah with the Egyptian ambassador, Yasser Othman, Abbas said "there have been attempts to mess with this decisive issue."

Also Tuesday, Human Rights Watch urged the Palestinian Authority as well as Israel to immediately charge or release men they are detaining arbitrarily.

"Israel and the Palestinian Authority are violating international law when they throw Palestinians in jail for months or years without charge or trial," said HRW Mideast chief Sarah Leah Whitson.

"Foreign donors supporting Israeli and Palestinian security services should press for an end to longstanding practices that detainees are risking their lives to protest."

The group said PA detainee Zakaria Zubeidi’s refusal of fluids, as well as food, to protest his detention by the Palestinian Authority without charge or trial means he has only days to live.
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