Ahead of the upcoming legislative and presidential elections in Palestine, Israeli security forces conducted a series of raids in the occupied West Bank on Monday, April 12. 28 Palestinians were arrested, most of them members of Palestinian political factions, including West Bank-based Fatah and the predominantly Gaza-based Hamas. Several well-known civil society figures were also arrested, reported Wafa News. The Palestinian prisoner society stated that the overnight raids took place in and around the West Bank cities of Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Nablus, and occupied East Jerusalem.
Among the important Hamas members arrested in the raids was Mona Kadan, who was a political prisoner for over six years in Israel. Kadan was arrested from Arraba village located southwest of the city of Jenin. Hamas leader Anas Rasras and Palestinian legislative council member Omar al-Qawasmeh were also arrested in the raids. Hamas member and head of the Palestinian Scholars’ League Sheikh Mustafa Shawar was arrested in Hebron. Israeli security forces also invaded some Palestinian homes in the Beit Ummar village and arrested two unidentified former political prisoners, along with 22-year old Waleed Abu Maria. The violent raids by the Israeli forces led to clashes with the village residents. Israeli forces forces responded with the use of tear gas, as a result of which some villagers had to later seek medical treatment.
In similar raids in other parts of the occupied West Bank, Israeli soldiers stormed and ransacked the homes of the Amour family in the town of Teqoa near the city of Bethlehem. They arrested 10 members of the household. Raids were reported in other cities and towns of the West Bank where Israeli soldiers stormed into Palestinian homes, violently assaulted the residents and damaged property, but left without making any arrests.
Hamas official and member of its political bureau, Mousa Dudin, said in a statement that the raids reflect Israel’s “criminal and terrorist identity in besieging our people and its democratic options,” adding that “since the start of the elections, the Israeli occupation threats against the Hamas movement’s leaders and sons have not stopped.” He called upon the international community to “stand up in the face of the Zionist arrogance that expresses a fascism that has no parallel in the world, by robbing the will of the people.” A large number of the detainees belong to Hamas.
Israeli raids have become more frequent recently with the Palestinian legislative elections approaching in May. On April 6, Israel had carried out similar raids and arrested several prominent Palestinian leaders, including Adel Abu Zneid, director of Fatah party in East Jerusalem, Ghada Abu Rabi, Fatah’s parliamentary candidate, Palestinian activist Awad Salaymeh, and director of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, Nasser Abu Qous.
Israeli efforts at interfering with the Palestinian elections have not just stopped at mass arrests of important Palestinian politicians and civil society figures. Israel has also resorted to other unlawful means to tamper with the elections. According to reports, in March, Israeli domestic security and intelligence agency Shin Bet called a number of Hamas members and supporters in the occupied West Bank and warned them against running in the legislative elections in May. They were threatened with dire consequences such as detention. Several other Hamas members and supporters were reportedly either visited by Israeli soldiers at their homes with the same warning, or were asked to report to Shin Bet offices for interrogation.
Several political analysts have observed that Israel fears Hamas’ victory in the upcoming elections and is therefore trying to tilt the odds against the group. Hamas had won the last Palestinian elections in 2006 with a landslide. Palestinian human rights researcher Fuad al-Khuffash noted that the reason Israel is arresting Hamas politicians and members is to “empty the arena of influential people” who can contest and win the elections for Hamas. According to him, Israel had engaged in similar actions before the last elections in 2006, when it arrested more than 560 Hamas politicians and members. It had also initiated a crackdown and mass arrests of Hamas members following the group’s victory 15 years ago, preventing the legitimately elected group from assuming power in the occupied Palestinian territories.