Hamas: Palestinian Authority Arrests Dozens of Activists After Verbal Attacks on Abbas

Arrests are retaliation against criticism, Hamas sources say ■ Abbas set to address UN General Assembly, expected to discuss remarks by Trump and Netanyahu

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas arrives during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 25, 2018.
Craig Ruttle/AP

The Palestinian Authority has reportedly arrested dozens of activists in the West Bank who are linked to Hamas on Wednesday night after Hamas' Legislative Council denounced President Mahmoud Abbas as an illegitimate leader who does not represent the Palestinian people. 

According to the report, among the detainees are religious authorities and people who had previously served sentences in Israeli prisons.

The arrests were motivated by a desire to retaliate, Hamas sources claimed, against the insults pointed at Abbas during the council meeting on Wednesday.

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Among other things, Ahmad Bahar, the council’s deputy chairman, told Palestinian lawmakers that when Abbas takes the podium at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday he will not represent the Palestinian people, but only his own views. Bahar called for the establishment of a national unity government that would hold elections for the presidency and parliament.

Palestinian lawmaker Ataf Adwan accused Abbas of yielding the Palestinian people’s basic rights, making him unworthy of representing them at the UN.

On Thursday, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuheiri said the arrests constitute a serious escalation, proving that neither the Abbas government nor coordination with Israel have any legitimacy.

Fatah released a statement saying that "Hamas has led a wave of arrest against members of the movement in the Gaza Strip and put others under house arrest to prevent them from organizing rallies in support of Abbas during his UN General Assembly speech tonight.

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The timing of the verbal attack on Abbas is not coincidental, sources near the Hamas leadership told Haaretz, adding that it followed meetings in Ramallah and Gaza last week with Egyptian intelligence officials.

Hamas seems to be losing momentum in attempts to obtain a long-term truce with Israel, aside from efforts toward reconciliation within the Palestinian world, Hamas sources told Haaretz, adding that the situation in Gaza keeps deteriorating in the meantime.

Palestinian news agency Maan reported on Wednesday night that Saeb Erekat, the secretary of the PLO Executive Committee, and the Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York with representatives of 40 countries (including permanent members of the UN Security Council) and of international organizations.

Malki dismissed U.S. President Donald Trump's statement that the two-state solution "works best," saying it was insufficient. He has to spell it out, Malki said – two states based on the 1967 boundaries – and to acknowledge that East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Otherwise, Malki said, it will be difficult to make progress.

Asked if he would agree to meet with the Americans after the Trump administration releases the full details its peace plan, Malki said he would not, as long as Trump doesn't reverse several of his decisions.

Sources close to Abbas believe that the statements by Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the two-state solution are likely to be acknowledged in Abbas' speech Thursday night at the UN, which is supposed to take place around noon in New York. Giant screens have been set up in some towns in the West Bank, from which marches in support of Abbas are supposed to set out.