Palestinian Authority security forces arrested 10 Hamas activists overnight Wednesday in Hebron, continuing a crackdown against the Islamist group ahead of a large demonstration planned in the city Thursday.
The arrests came despite the establishment earlier this week of a unity government between Hamas and Fatah, which controls the PA.
The men were stopped in their car and a search of the vehicle uncovered weapons that they were carrying, the Ma’an News Agency reported.
The arrests came ahead of a call by Hamas on Thursday for a general strike in Hebron to mark the annual Naksa Day, or “Day of the Setback,” on June 5, commemorating Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. During the war Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
Several of the detainees were former prisoners held by Israel, according to Internet sites affiliated with Hamas.
Some 20 Hamas members have been arrested in the West Bank, which is effectively controlled by Fatah, since the two factions agreed in April to end seven years of hostilities, according to an analysis by the news outlet al-Monitor.
Over 200 Hamas members have been arrested since the beginning of 2014, according to the site. Dozens of Fatah members have also been arrested over the past months in Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.
The strike and accompanying demonstrations planned by Hamas in Hebron are seen by the PA as a challenge to the rule of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The demonstrations are also intended as a show of support for a hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons that has continued for more than six weeks.
Around 290 prisoners began their fast on April 24 and since then 65 have been hospitalized.
On Monday, Abbas swore in the 17 ministers who form the new unity government at a ceremony in Ramallah.
The swearing in theoretically marked the end of years of division between the rival Palestinian factions, with the technocratic government planned to set up elections in the next six months.
Israel has skewered the unity deal, accusing Abbas of preferring a pact with the Islamist Hamas movement over peace.