By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
JERUSALEM, Israel — Last Monday, Israel arrested 23 Hamas members in the West Bank. Three of them were lawmakers.
The three lawmakers, Ahmed Attoun, Hatem Qafisha, and Mohammed Al-Talhad were arrested during the early hours of Monday morning. The three men are part of the Change and Reform Bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, a Hamas backed organization. At around 5 A.M., during morning prayers, Israeli forces in military Jeeps raided several cities throughout the West Bank and arrested the political leaders.
“It is a criminal act that will not succeed in stopping their struggle,” Hamas said in a statement made shortly after the three men were arrested. “We in the Hamas movement strongly condemn the campaign of arbitrary arrests that took in dozens of Hamas leaders.”
An Israeli military spokeswoman neither confirmed nor denied that any lawmakers were arrested. “25 Palestinians were arrested, 23 of them belonged to Hamas,” she said. In confirming that arrests were made last Monday, she did not disclose the names of those arrested nor gave any reason as to why they were arrested.
Senior Palestinian Official Hanan Ashrawi denounced the arrests, describing them as “deliberate Israeli plans to destabilize the internal situation, interfere in Palestinian institutions… and deal a blow to national reconciliation” between Fatah and Hamas, who govern the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, respectively.
Hamas also reports that 21 well known activists were additionally among the arrests made in the West Bank.
A Hamas affiliated website stated that detainees’ family members recounted that “soldiers broke into their homes with dogs, arrested activists and took them to Israeli security facilities.”
Palestinian sources also reported that Israeli soldiers broke into the headquarters of Tul Karm, a charitable organization, and confiscated papers and equipment, including computers.
Like Ashrawi, Hamas and the Ramallah-based Ahrar Center for Human Rights believe that the arrests are intended to “undermine Palestinian reconciliation efforts between the radical Islamist movement ruling Gaza and its main rival, President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
Hamas, a vocal critic of the security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and Israel, condemned the arrests but refrained from making any criticisms about the Palestinian Authority at the moment.
The recent arrest raises the number of lawmakers held in Israeli jails to sixteen. of those imprisoned, thirteen members represent the Change and Reform Bloc, and out of the remaining three, two are from the ruling Fatah party. Ahmad Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is also in an Israeli prison, serving several life terms.
For further information, please see:
Al Arabiya — Israel Arrests Hamas Lawmakers in West Bank — 4 February 2013
Gulf News — Israel Arrests 25 Hamas Members in West Bank — 4 February 2013
Haaretz — Israel Arrests Dozens of Hamas Activists, Lawmakers in West Bank — 4 February 2013
JTA — Israeli Security Forces Arrest Hamas Lawmakers — 4 February 2013
Palestine News Network — Sixteen Lawmakers Held in Israeli Jails, Says Group — 4 February 2013
Reuters — Israel Arrests 23 Hamas men Including Three Lawmakers in West Bank — 4 February 2013