So much for Palestinian “unity.”
As expected, the recent Palestinian Authority “unity” deal has done little to curb internecine fighting amongst Palestinian Authority Arabs: A Palestinian website reported Sunday that political arrests continue unabated in both Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip.
According to PA-run Ma’an News Service, Fatah-linked security forces have continued detaining Hamas suspects around Judea and Samaria, while Hamas forces in Gaza have done the same to local residents there suspected of membership in Abu Mazen’s faction.
The website said that although the pace of detentions has slowed, there are few signs of political freedom in either jurisdiction: Since the agreement was signed, the Palestinian Authority leadership has taken some small steps to allow Hamas to come out of hiding in Judea and Samaria: After the agreement was signed, Fatah unbanned a Hamas newspaper, Falesteen, for the first time since 2007. And Hamas banners and protesters have openly taken part in some demonstrations, mainly in Qalqilia.
In addition, Fatah has refused to serve the consular needs of Gaza residents since the Hamas takeover in 2007. For example, current regulations call for Gaza residents to apply for passports via the government in Ramallah. But P.A. officials have refused to fulfil those requests. There is no indication that that policy has changed over the past month.
In general, Palestinian Authority forces continue to fear a Gaza-style Hamas take over in Judea and Samaria. Some Israeli security officials brushed off Palestinian threats to break security ties in response to the deaths of two Palestinian rioters on “nakba” day, the Palestinians’ annual commemoration of the “disaster” of Israel’s founding. The security officials say there is little chance that Abu Mazen would order the Palestinian Authority security apparatus to stop cooperating with IDF and Shabak security officials, for a simple reason: Israel’s presence in Palestinian-majority areas of Judea and Samaria are the only reason Hamas hasn’t routed Fatah there.
To prevent this, security forces loyal to Abu Mazen have continued arresting Hamas operatives on a near-daily basis, particularly in Hebron and Tulkarem.
In Gaza, too, Hamas forces have slowed their detentions of Fatah activists, and have moved to make life easier for Fatah loyalists. But Khalil Abu Shamala, secretary of the Freedoms Committee in the Gaza Strip, told Ma’an that Hamas continues to “summons” Fatah members on a regular basis, albeit less frequently than before the reconciliation agreement was signed.
The Freedoms Committee was set up to help implement the political reunification process. The Committee has made several recommendations, including streamlining passport applications for Gaza residents by opening a branch of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of the Interior in Gaza.
Currently, Gaza residents must apply for passports through the mail to Ramallah, a process which causes substantial burden. Few Gaza residents have received passports since Hamas’ violent takeover of the Strip seven years ago.
Khalil Assaf, a member of the Freedoms Committee in the West Bank, warned Ma’an that the campaigns of arrests “strained the reconciliation atmosphere” in the Fatah-led region.
As of this writing, however, there is no indication that political freedom is on the agenda for either of the major Palestinian factions.