A Palestinian Authority counter-terror effort in northern Samaria is leading to discontent among Palestinians, according to Tazpit Press Service.
Palestinian sources described to TPS a wave of “security and political” arrests carried out by the PA in recent days, mainly in the areas of Jenin and Shechem (Nablus). Among those arrested were members of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Lions’ Den, according to the sources.
Hamas and PIJ members and activists have taken to social media to voice their condemnations, stating that “the security services kidnapped many resistance fighters and activists in Jeba, near Jenin.” The posts describe the crackdown as a “part of a political campaign by the authority that works against the resistance.”
Sources in the Palestinian Authority told TPS, “These are not political arrests,” and emphasized, “All the detainees took part in setting fire to the Palestinian police headquarters in the village a few days ago, at the end of the [Israel Defense Forces] operation in the refugee camp in Jenin and before [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas visited the camp on Wednesday, his first visit to Jenin since 2012.”
The situation has also escalated tensions between the terror groups and Ramallah.
PIJ has released a statement accusing the PA of committing a “national and moral crime” by targeting its members. Meanwhile, Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade also expressed strong opposition to the arrests and warned against any harm to detainees.
Notably, the arrests in the Jenin area focused on the town of Jaba, leading to the detention of prominent terror commanders including Muhammad Malaisha and Eid Hammara of PIJ and Muhammad Alauna of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
The arrests have not been limited to armed groups alone. The posts also accuse the PA of rounding up journalists, students and social activists who express dissent against the PA and Abbas. Other detainees include Bir Zeit University student council leaders Abdel Majid Hassan and Amr Kaswani, who won elections running on a pro-Hamas list in May.
Also taken into custody was Palestinian radio broadcaster Akil Aweda, after he spoke out against the political arrests. His arrest sparked outrage among social activists and journalists who view the PA’s actions as a direct attack on freedom of speech and expression.
To pressure wanted Palestinians to turn themselves in, the PA has in some cases also arrested relatives of terrorists—among them former security prisoners in Israel and members of Hamas and PIJ.
These actions have drawn strong criticism from Palestinian human rights organizations, who claim that political detention cases have risen significantly this year.
Ramallah denies the arrests are political, saying the crackdown is a response to incitement against the PA. Support for the PA has plummeted since Israel launched a two-day counter-terror operation in the Jenin refugee camp earlier this month. The Israel Defense Forces uncovered bomb-making laboratories, explosives and a homemade rocket launcher. Palestinians accuse the PA of not doing more to prevent the incursion and accuse Abbas of collaborating with Israel.
The PA is facing increasing denunciations from its own people on social media. Critics have branded the PA the “authority of shame” and the “biggest collaborator with the occupation.”
Meanwhile, Hamas and PIJ have said they will cancel plans to participate in an upcoming summit of Palestinian factions in Cairo if the PA does end its crackdown.
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