PA arrests dozens in raid on Islamist mosque — report

Palestinian security said to have searched for Jerusalemites, whom it intends to hand over to Israel

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate in Ramallah,  July 7, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir demonstrate in Ramallah, July 7, 2012 (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

The Palestinian Authority arrested over 100 Islamists in a mosque near Ramallah Saturday evening, a member of the group Hizb ut-Tahrir told Palestinian media.

The raid was part of what critics say is a campaign of harassment against Islamists by Palestinian security forces.

Baher Saleh, a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, told the Palestinian Safa news agency that PA security surrounded a mosque in el-Bireh, a suburb of Ramallah, during a weekly religious class, arresting dozens of party members both inside and outside the mosque.

“The security forces turned the environs of el-Bireh’s grand mosque into something resembling military barracks,” Saleh told Safa. “They beat the party supporters in a barbaric way, exposing the security mentality on which these agencies were raised.”

Founded in Jerusalem in 1953, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Arabic for the Liberation Party, is a pan-Islamic organization advocating the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. Unlike other Islamist Palestinian movements such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Hizb ut-Tahrir largely eschews violent action, focusing instead on religious preaching, or da’wa.

Saleh said that Palestinian security was searching for party members from Jerusalem, who were arrested, while immediately releasing those carrying Palestinian IDs.

“This threatens to repeat the shameful action of the PA from last year, when Jerusalemites were handed over to the occupation forces,” he said.

Safa is affiliated with Hizb ut-Tahrir and the report could not be independently verified.

When contacted by The Times of Israel, PA security forces refused to comment.

Hamas and other Islamist movements have long bemoaned repeated raids and interrogations by PA security forces, harassment they claim is politically motivated.

Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, last week lauded the security cooperation between Israel and the PA. He said, however, that over 90 percent of the security arrests in the West Bank are carried out by Israel.

“The Palestinian security forces trained by [US Lieutenant General Keith] Dayton are mainly engaged in law and order missions,” Amidror told the audience at a panel organized by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on Thursday.

“They’ve killed Hamas members only when those have threatened the stability of the Palestinian Authority.”

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