By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East
HEBRON, West Bank – On September 22, security forces from the Palestinian Authority (PA) raided the Hebron offices of Samira al-Halayka, a legislator from Hamas’s Change and Reform bloc. According to al-Halayka, computers and documents were confiscated by the PA. A security official in Hebron stated that the officers confiscated leaflets and other documents that he said incited violence against the Palestinian Authority. In addition, al-Halayka’s guard was detained, but then later released.
This raid was conducted as part of a larger crack-down against Hamas in the West Bank. Over the weekend, PA security officers, loyal to Fatah and President Abbas, arrested fifteen members of Hamas. Hamas also claims that the PA shut down four organizations, which were purely charitable. Earlier in the month, on September 11, Hamas reported that PA security forces arrested 11 of its members and supporters.
Tensions between Hamas and Fatah remain high following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in summer 2007. In addition to violent confrontations, this tension has resulted in politically-motivated arrests against each others members. Politically-motivated arrests are such an issue of contention that the two sides agreed to form a national committee aimed at ending the practice.
The heightened tension between the two factions has led to rumors of a Palestinian civil war. Last week, ten Palestinian West Bank security chiefs met in Beit El with Israeli military and police officers. Fatah officers openly called for “joint action with Israel against the common enemy – Hamas,” and expressed their “willingness to take care of the Hamas mosques and institutions using information provided by Israel.”
In addition, Hamas leaders, including former Interior Minister, Said Siam, stated that following January 9, 2009, Abbas will not be the legal Palestinian President. Following the January 2005 presidential elections, which Hamas boycotted, the basic law was amended so that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in the same year. However, Hamas argues that following the January 2006 parliamentary election, it annulled this part of the law.
“There is nothing in the Palestinian constitution saying that the president has the right to extend his presidential term for an extra year. According to the constitution, the presidential term is four years only,” said Siam.
For more information, please see:
Ha’aretz – PA Security Forces Raid West Bank Office of Hamas Legislator – 22 September 2008
International Middle East Media Center – P.A. Forces Arrest Five Hamas Member in the West Bank – 22 September 2008
Reuters – Palestinian Authority Raids Hamas West Bank Office – 22 September 2008
Xinhua – Hamas Official: Abbas not to be Legal President After Jan. 9 – 22 September 2008
Yedioth – Palestinians Headed to Civil War – 22 September 2008
Xinhua – Pro-Abbas Forces Arrest 11 Hamas Members in West Bank – 11 September 2008