Skip to main content

Palestinian security forces arrest over 100 in biggest campaign in years

Dozens of Hamas members and supporters were rounded up in an escalation of security coordination between the PA and Israel
Members of the PA security services drawn from the ranks of the national and preventive security forces march in Ramallah on 19 May 2006 (AFP)

In the early hours before dawn on Friday, Palestinian security forces set up checkpoints throughout the West Bank and arrested dozens of Hamas leaders and supporters.

Various Hamas outlets were quick to publish a list of the names of the men arrested, with the latest count up to 108. Amongst them are students and former prisoners of Israel.

Samira al-Halayqa, a Hamas member of the legislative council, called the latest arrest campaign "the biggest in recent years" - as part of the framework of security coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

Halayqa pointed out that the arrests came in light of an anonymous drive-by shooting at four Jewish settlers in their car on Monday, in which one settler was killed. The gunmen fled the scene and remain at large.

Hussam Badran, a Hamas spokesman who resides in Turkey, held Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas fully responsible for what he described as “a state of repression and terror that the security forces are carrying out against the Palestinian people in the West Bank”.

The arrests drew the ire of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, who called for the immediate release of the detained.

"Actions by these collaborator services will not break the movement and will not weaken resistance. We call for the immediate release of prisoners and we warn of the consequences of these unpatriotic measures," Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza said.

The Palestinian Authority denied that it had carried out arrests based on political motivation, and asserted that the arrests were made based on security grounds.

The arrests followed a statement released by the Israeli internal intelligence service, the Shin Bet, earlier this week about foiling the setting up of a Hamas headquarters in Nablus, with 40 members of Hamas arrested over the past three months.

Adnan al-Dameri, the spokesman for the PA security forces said, “All those who were arrested will be referred to civilian prosecutors and then to courts with specific charges against them. [The charges] consist of threatening the general security of the West Bank, with the goal of disturbing the stability.”

Yet “stability” in the West Bank has seen 15 Palestinians killed by Israel so far this year, the latest being 17-year-old Mohammed al-Kasbeh, who was shot twice in the upper body at Qalandiya checkpoint.

Witnesses said that Kasbeh was climbing a ladder to get over the Separation Wall in order to go to Jerusalem for the Friday prayers, while the Israeli army said that he was throwing rocks at an army jeep.

‘One computer’

Many Palestinians view security coordination by the Palestinian Authority, which began after its formation in 1993 as a result of the Oslo Accords, as a form of collaboration with the Israeli authorities.

This was echoed on Twitter this morning by Palestinians using the hashtag in Arabic “One_computer.” This is in reference to the database which has the security files of Palestinians arrested on both the Israeli and PA side.

The phrase became widely used after an interview with 22-year-old Hamza AbulHeija was posted after Israeli army killed him in the Jenin refugee camp in March 2014. Hamza, the son of one of the founders of Hamas, Jamal AbulHeija, who is serving nine life sentences in Israeli prison, was pursued and arrested by both the PA security services and Israeli army multiple times in his young adult life.

In the interview, Hamza described his last arrest by Israel, where he spent 50 days in interrogation in the Jalameh prison and interrogation centre.

“Every question I was asked by the Palestinian Authority was asked of me again by the Israelis,” he said. “They’re the same questions, one computer.”

Translation: The new Palestinian is the one that takes orders from the Shabak [Shin Bet] officers and arrests those wanted on their database
The cartoon shows a men being led away by a security officer asking, "If it's not too much bother to ask, but are you Israel or the Palestinian Authority?"

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.