PA stages ‘campaign of arrests’ against Fatah dissidents, critics

Loyalists of exiled leader Dahlan accuse Abbas of staging crackdown over opposition to his bid to convene the Palestine National Council

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

Mohammed Dahlan during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)
Mohammed Dahlan during an interview with The Associated Press in his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on January 3, 2011. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed, File)

Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested several supporters of Mohammad Dahlan, a deposed senior Fatah official and arch-rival of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Dahlan, who is based in the United Arab Emirates, heads a group called the Democratic Reform Trend. It consists of scores of disgruntled Fatah leaders and activists who are strongly opposed to Abbas and his policies.

Some of the leaders of the group recently met in Cairo with Hamas officials to discuss the failing reconciliation agreement between the terror group and Abbas’s Fatah faction.

Some Hamas leaders have indicated readiness to allow Dahlan to become part of a new administration in the Gaza Strip that would be tasked with improving the living conditions of Palestinians and ending the economic crisis there.

On Wednesday, Dahlan’s group accused PA security forces of waging a “frenzied campaign of arrests” against its cadres in the West Bank in violation of Palestinian national values.

The dissident Fatah group complained that officers belonging to the PA’s Preventive Security Service have been raiding homes of Dahlan loyalists and tightening inspections over their activities and movements.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on March 19, 2018. (Flash90)

The group said it believed the crackdown was connected to widespread opposition to Abbas’s decision to convene the Palestine National Council in Ramallah in the coming weeks.

The 700-delegate PNC, which serves as the Palestinians’ parliament-in-exile, is expected to elect new members of the Executive Committee, the most senior decision-making body in the PLO. Abbas is hoping that the PNC session will also elect new members of another influential body, the PLO Central Committee.

Abbas’s decision to convene the PNC came amid reports that his heath had deteriorated in recent weeks. The decision is also believed to be linked to the US administration’s intention to announce a new peace plan. Abbas has already rejected the yet-to-be-announced plan, dubbing it a “conspiracy to obliterate the Palestinian cause and rights.”

Several Palestinian groups have rejected Abbas’s decision to hold the PNC session in Ramallah because it would mean that dozens of members living outside the West Bank would not be able to attend. Hamas and other PLO groups, including the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, say there’s no way Israel would permit them to enter the West Bank.

Referring to the security clampdown on Dahlan loyalists, the Democratic Reform Trend said, “We condemn this cheap method by the Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. The arrests are part of a preemptive measure to silence voices and deter critics ahead of the Palestine National Council session.”

Some of the Dahlan loyalists targeted by the PA are former residents of the Gaza Strip who fled to the West Bank after Hamas’s violent takeover of the coastal enclave in 2007.

One, Abd al Mun’em Obeid, was arrested by the PA in his Ramallah home earlier this week, a source in the city said. Obeid, a former resident of Rafah in the Gaza Strip, had previously served 10 years in Israeli prison for security-related offenses.

Obeid is in charge of the “Gaza portfolio” in the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

Dahlan, a former security chief in the Gaza Strip, has been living in exile in the UAE since he was expelled from Fatah a six years ago. Abbas has accused him of financial and administrative corruption and murder — charges that Dahlan has strongly denied in the past. Dahlan enjoys the political backing of Egypt and some Arab countries — something that has further enraged Abbas and his Fatah loyalists and officials.

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