Hamas denies arresting hundreds of Fatah members

Fatah claims Hamas arrested more than 500 of its members in Gaza ahead of Fatah anniversary rally.

Ben Ariel ,

Fatah rally
Fatah rally
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party claimed on Monday that its rival Hamas had arrested more than 500 Fatah members in Gaza, ahead of a rally marking the anniversary of the movement's founding.

On Sunday, Fatah accused Hamas of “abducting” dozens of its leaders and operatives in Gaza, saying that "this is unacceptable behavior that does not conform to the values and morals of the Palestinian people."

"More than 500 of our members and sons have been arrested since last night by Hamas security forces in Gaza," Atef Abu Saif, a spokesman for Fatah in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement on Monday, according to AFP.

Saif said the arrests were an attempt by Hamas to disrupt activities to mark Fatah's 54th anniversary.

Hamas denied the accusation, with a spokesman for the Gazan “interior ministry” saying that 38 people had been held for questioning over concerns that opposing Fatah factions in Gaza would clash at the rally.

All had been released, said spokesman Iyad al-Bozum.

Hamas and Fatah have been embroiled in a bitter rivalry since 2007, when Hamas violently took over Gaza from Fatah in a bloody coup.

The two organizations signed a reconciliation deal last October, under which the PA was to have resumed full control of Gaza by December 1.

That deadline, however, was initially put back by 10 days and had later reportedly hit “obstacles”. It has never been implemented and is one of many attempts that have failed over the years to ease the tensions between the two groups.

The rivalry between the groups intensified last year because of the punitive measures taken by the Palestinian Authority against Gaza.

PA security forces have also cracked down on Hamas in PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria. Just a few weeks ago, PA security forces broke up a Hamas protest in Hevron and used batons against both male and female demonstrators.