RAMALLAH // Palestinian Authority forces have arrested around 100 Hamas members who “intended to carry out attacks against the PA” in overnight raids in the West Bank, a security official said on Friday.
It was the largest security crackdown since 2007, and came just hours before a senior Israeli army officer shot and killed a Palestinian youth who was throwing stones near a checkpoint in the West Bank.
“We are arresting [the Hamas members] for interrogation or to put them on trial based on evidence they are threatening Palestinian internal security stability and are trying to drag the region and drag us into military confrontation and destroy the area,” said Adnan Dameri, spokesman for Palestinian security, without providing details of the specific charges.
“We will not let Hamas undermine our security and draw our country to bloodshed, we will not let Hamas carry out attacks in the West Bank.”
Hamas said 108 of its members were taken into custody in raids in towns across the territory. Spokesman Husam Badran said the arrests were meant to stop the recent spate of deadly Palestinian attacks against Israelis, but added that the movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, would continue attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.
There has been a recent surge in deadly Palestinian attacks against Israelis. Two Israelis were killed in separate West Bank shootings that also injured several people, while two others were wounded in stabbing attacks.
Meanwhile, Hamas dismissed as “propaganda” an Israeli claim that it provided support related to Wednesday’s attacks against Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip.
“Hamas has made efforts and taken stated measures to secure the border” said another Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
“We are intent on (preserving) Egypt’s security.”
The overnight arrests increased friction between Hamas and the West Bank-based PA, which is dominated by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.
Mr Abu Zuhri condemned the arrests as a “dangerous escalation which blocks efforts and reconciliation”.
“Actions by these collaborator services will not break the movement and will not weaken resistance,” he said, criticising the PA for its “security cooperation with the Israeli occupation”.
“We call for the immediate release of prisoners and we warn of the consequences of these unpatriotic measures.”
Under 1993 peace accords, the PA co-ordinates on West Bank security with Israel, including by sharing intelligence.
The authority regularly arrests members of Hamas, but the latest mass arrest is the biggest in one night since 2007 when Hamas violently ousted forces loyal to president Abbas from Gaza, leaving him governing just parts of the West Bank.
In June 2014, Israel detained hundreds of Hamas members in the West Bank after blaming the group for the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers.
The latest arrests came amid tension between Hamas and the PA, more than a year after the two sides signed a unity deal that failed to end a years-long Palestinian split.
Last April, the two sides approved a government of independent technocrats to take over administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
But disputes over the payment of Hamas-appointed employees in Gaza, and control of the territory, mean that Hamas remains in control of the enclave.
Meanwhile, a 17-year-old Palestinian, named Mohammed Sami Al Ksbeh, was killed after being shot in the head and chest on Friday.
He was among a group throwing stones at an army vehicle near Qalandiya, a major checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah.
A Palestinian witness said the army vehicle then stopped and soldiers got out and fired at Ksbeh.
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner confirmed that an Israeli colonel, a brigade commander in the West Bank, had shot Ksbeh.
While there is a widespread presence of Israeli troops and military police throughout the West Bank, it is rare for a senior officer to be involved in a shooting incident. The army said that the military police was investigating the shooting.