IDF troops arrested 14 suspects in the West Bank during raids overnight Saturday, including a senior member of the terror group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an army spokesperson said.
According to the Shin Bet security agency, Ahmad Qatamesh was arrested in the city of el-Bireh and taken in for interrogation on the basis of his alleged membership in the PFLP.
Qatamesh, who is also a writer, was previously held in an Israeli prison in the 1990s for over five years without trial over his ties to the PFLP. At the time of his release, he was the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner to be held in so-called administrative detention.
He was also rearrested in 2011 and held again without charge for over two years.
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Qatamesh’s wife, Suha Barghouti, told Al-Jazeera on Sunday that she believes her husband was arrested due to his advocacy on behalf of Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli prisons.
“We don’t know yet what is happening or why, but I think because he is campaigning for the prisoners and is very active,” she said, adding that he was warned by Israel “not to speak so publicly.”
Barghouti also said that her husband was wrongly targeted as a result of the “image” Israel has of him.
“They still in their mind consider him a leader and hold him responsible for actions. He’s not a leader or a part of any political organization,” she said.
“They have an image of Ahmad [and] he’s paying the bill for what they think he is,” she added.
According to Palestinian officials, 1,500 inmates have been refusing food since the strike began nearly a month ago to protest prison conditions. However, Israeli officials say only some 800 continue to refuse food and have dismissed the hunger strike as an attempt by its leader — convicted Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti — to show Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he still wields influence on the Palestinian street.
Barghouti is a popular figure in Palestinian society and is seen as a possible successor to Abbas.
Of the 14 suspects arrested overnight, 13 were detained for their involvement in “popular terror,” a term used by the army to denote acts such as rock-throwing and rioting, the IDF said.
Judah Ari Gross and agencies contributed to this report.