PA Releases Dozens of Hamas-linked Detainees Despite Rising Tensions

Hamas accuses PA of acting as 'protector of enemy's security' for arresting suspected Hamas terror perpetrators.

The Palestinian Authority released from detention dozens of Hamas operatives and political activists affiliated with the organization at the behest of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas overnight Wednesday.

Hamas security officials using batons to detain Fatah supporters during clashes in Gaza City on Sept. 7, 2007.

The Palestinian Authority said in a statement that the decision to release the detainees was a gesture marking the Muslim holiday of Eid el Fitr which ends the holy month of Ramadan.

Palestinian Authority security forces arrested several hundred Hamas-linked operatives across the West Bank following two back-to-back shooting attacks against Israelis last week. Four Israelis were killed last Tuesday and two Israelis were wounded the following day when assailants opened fire on their vehicles in the West Bank. Hamas claimed responsibility for both attacks.

On Wednesday, Hamas warned the PA to stop arresting its operatives, or "we will strike."

The decision to release the detainees was made Thursday against the backdrop of remarks by Fatah spokesman in the West Bank Asaf Shamer, who said that "Hamas' threats to harm the Palestinian Authority's security apparatus in the West Bank indicates that the organization seeks to complete the coup it began in the Gaza Strip." Shamer was referring to the violent coup staged by Hamas in 2007, during which the Islamist group drove Fatah out of the territory and violently seized control.

It appears that the open hostility between rival factions Hamas and Abbas' Fatah is on the rise, in light of remarks made by both sides. Earlier Thursday, Hamas accused Fatah of betraying the Palestinian people by arresting a cell of Hamas operatives who carried out the deadly shooting attack last week.

"The bragging over the arrest of the perpetrators of the shooting attack in Beit Hagai confirms Fatah authorities' dangerous role as the protectors of the enemy's security," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Thursday. He added that the arrests carried out by the PA "represent a crossing of all the red lines, and represent a blatant cooperation with the enemy in broad daylight."