In the largest arrest campaign since it’s inception in 1994, the Palestinian Authority, run by the Fateh party, sent security officers all over the West Bank Wednesday morning to arrest known members of the rival Hamas party, after Hamas’ armed wing claimed responsibility for the killing of four Israeli settlers Tuesday night. According to the Palestinian Authority, at least 300 were arrested and taken to Palestinian police stations and prisons.Local sources report that the Palestinian security forces entered homes and workplaces, arresting anyone they suspected of being connected to the Hamas party. The crackdown on Hamas comes as the Palestinian leadership heads to Washington for negotiations with Israel, during which they must prove that they have full control over the West Bank, and are carrying out the interests of the Israeli state there.
Tuesday night’s attack marks the highest number of fatalities in a single attack against Israelis since 2006. Palestinians in the West Bank point out that during the last four years, which Israel calls ‘relative calm’, over 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, and daily invasions, blockades and land seizures have made life anything but calm for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
A leader of the Hamas party in Gaza, which was elected in 2006 but prevented from taking power in the West Bank by an Israeli-backed coup by the Fateh party, said that the attack Tuesday night was the natural result of the ongoing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Omar Abdel-Raziq, a legislator with the Hamas party, said the arrest campaign was political, adding, “They are trying to tell the Israelis that they are capable of doing the job after the attack.”
The ability of the Palestinian Authority to control its population is one of the main issues that the Israeli government has said it would bring to the negotiating table in Washington. The Palestinian Authority, with no political, economic or judicial power, comes to the negotiating table without the means to push for their core demands to be met – the three core demands of the Palestinians are the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the return of Palestinian refugees, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.