Palestinian Authority security forces apprehended several members of Hamas during rallies organized by the group in two West Bank cities over the weekend, Hamas-affiliated media outlets reported Sunday.
According to Israel Radio, Hamas said a number of its supporters were detained while others were repeatedly harassed by PA security men at demonstrations in Tulkarem and Ramallah.
Tensions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have soared in recent weeks, as officials from the Fatah party accused the terror group of committing “crimes” against its members in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge despite the fact that the two movements had joined together in a unity government in early June.
Earlier this month, a Fatah official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal against his party members in Gaza, told The Times of Israel that close to 250 Fatah members in the Strip had been confined to their homes by Hamas throughout Operation Protective Edge. The official said that as many as 125 were shot at by Hamas operatives when they refused to comply with the orders. Ten victims of gunshots to the legs have been transferred to hospitals in Ramallah and Nablus in the West Bank, he added.
Hamas, for its part, demands that the Palestinian Authority stop withholding the salaries of thousands of workers affiliated with the group in the coastal enclave. The terror organization asserts that the Palestinian Authority is deliberately instigating unrest among Palestinians in the Strip in an attempt to turn civilians against Hamas.
Two weeks ago, PA security forces in Hebron used tear gas to disperse a crowd of hundreds of Hamas supporters who were advancing on an IDF checkpoint near the city, Israel Radio reported. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum heavily condemned the Palestinian Authority security forces for breaking up the Hebron demonstration, calling the dispersal a “disgraceful and disrespectful” act designed to serve Israel, the Ynet news site reported.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service claimed earlier in August that it had thwarted a Hamas coup attempt in the West Bank aimed at toppling PA President Mahmoud Abbas and starting a third intifada uprising.
The Shin Bet said it arrested more than 90 Hamas operatives in May and June, confiscated dozens of weapons that had been smuggled into the West Bank, and seized more than $170,000 aimed at funding attacks. It produced photos of the confiscated weapons and cash and a flowchart of the Hamas operatives who had been questioned, and said they planned a series of massive attacks on Israeli targets, including the Temple Mount, in order to start a widespread conflagration. Indictments are expected to be filed against at least 70 of the suspects.
Abbas later said the revelation was “a grave threat to the unity of the Palestinian people and its future.”
Elhanan Miller and Mitch Ginsburg contributed to this report.