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Palestine election: Israel's wave of arrests sweeps up Palestinians before polls

Hamas and Fatah members caught up in series of Israeli arrests since March say they have been warned not to compete in coming elections
A Palestinian demonstrator is detained by Israeli soldiers during a protest near the West Bank village of Tubas, near the Jordan Valley, on 29 January 2020 (AFP)

Israeli forces arrested 24 Palestinians on Monday morning ahead of May's Palestinian legislative election, which Israel fears the Hamas movement will win with a landslide majority. 

This latest round of arrests targeted several towns in the West Bank, according to a statement by the Palestinian prisoners' rights group Asra Media Office, and included a former female political prisoner and Hamas members in the West Bank.

In Arraba village, south of Jenin town, Mona Kadan, 46, a former political prisoner who spent six years in Israeli jails, was arrested on Monday morning. 

Israeli forces also arrested two leaders of Hamas in Hebron, Anas Rasras and Omar al-Qawasmeh, as well as Sheikh Mustafa Shawar, head of the Palestinian Scholars League.

Monday's arrests came amid a wave of raids since March, which Palestinian prisoners' rights group Addameer said has seen 4,400 Palestinians detained by Israel, including 11 former members of the Palestinian parliament.

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Israeli warnings

In early March, news outlets reported that Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shin Bet, had contacted Palestinian members and supporters of the Hamas movement in the West Bank and warned them against running in the upcoming legislative elections, reportedly threatening them with detention.

Some received warnings during the night, when soldiers delivered the message to their doorsteps, while others were asked to report to Shin Bet stations for interrogation.

A number of senior figures in Palestinian politics and civil society have been rounded up, including Fatah's director in East Jerusalem, Adel Abu Zneid, and parliamentary candidate Ghada Abu Rabi on 6 April.

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Israeli forces arrested Abu Zneid in the Ambassador Hotel during a consultative meeting organised by Palestinian NGOs regarding the legislative election. They also arrested the director of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, Nasser Abu Qous, and activist Awad Salaymeh while they were at the hotel. 

Monday's arrests also included 22-year-old Waheed Abu Maria, who was attacked by Israeli soldiers in the town of Beit Ummar near Hebron, and Abdulaleem Alawi, from Deir Jarir village, east of Ramallah, who both had relatives recently detained. 

South of the West Bank, in Teqoa, near Bethlehem, Israeli forces arrested 10 Palestinians from the Amour clan.

In the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Abu Tor, Israeli forces arrested Ahmed Khuwais and Mohammed al-Syaad, as well as Tawfi Abu Sbitan and Adam Qarayin in the Silwan area.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced in January that a legislative election would be held in May, followed by a presidential poll in July.

They would be the first Palestinian elections since 2006, when Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, triggering a wave of Israeli arrests of its members, conflict with Fatah, and a split in governance between the Fatah-led PA in the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

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