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PA defends arrest campaign targeting Hamas

Sept. 20, 2012 5:24 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 20, 2012 11:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The arrests of scores of Hamas members in the occupied West Bank are unrelated to increasing tensions with Fatah, a Palestinian Authority official said Thursday.

Security forces spokesman Adnan Dmeiri told Ma'an that the mass arrests a day earlier were approved through legal channels and not based on the detainees' political views.

"The Hamas leadership is attempting to threaten Palestinian civil peace through its alliance with chaos, which is clear from Hamas' statements in Gaza," Dmeiri said.

"However, all the recent arrests were on a legal basis, and originated with the public prosecution and Palestinian judiciary," the spokesman insisted.

He accused Hamas of exaggerating the number of people it said were detained in the arrest campaign, which sparked criticism from Palestinian human rights groups. Dmeiri added that some of the detainees had already been freed after questioning, but did not provide figures.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights said Wednesday that 71 Hamas supporters had been detained in the raids, which were strongly denounced by Hamas.

"Everyday, (President Mahmoud) Abbas surprises us, confirming that he is harming our people and our parties," said senior Hamas lawmaker Ismail al-Ashqar.

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

Abbas 'upset' by Egypt

The arrests came amid increasing tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt.

West Bank officials say Abbas is particularly upset at the 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.

During a meeting Tuesday in his Ramallah office with the Egyptian ambassador, Abbas said the Palestinians have only one legitimate representative.

He said “there have been attempts to mess with this decisive issue.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza in a brief civil war in 2007. Abbas still claims to represent all Palestinians, but has not set foot in Gaza since his faction was ousted and the two sides regularly accuse each other of judicial harassment.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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