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Fateh says Hamas arrests members in Gaza ahead of rally

By AFP - Dec 31,2018 - Last updated at Dec 31,2018

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh Party said Monday that its rival Hamas had carried out widespread arrests of its members in the Gaza Strip ahead of a rally marking the anniversary of the movement’s founding.

Hamas denied the accusation, with a spokesman for the enclave’s interior ministry saying 38 people had been held for questioning over concerns that opposing Fateh factions in Gaza would clash at the rally set for later in the day. 

All had been released, said spokesman Iyad Al Bozum.

Fateh and Hamas remain deeply divided and Abbas, based in the occupied West Bank, has sought to increase pressure on the Islamist movement in recent days.

“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 Fateh in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement.

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

But there were also concerns over tensions between Fateh factions loyal to Abbas and his exiled rival Mohammed Dahlan, who is from Gaza and has a significant base of support there. 

Repeated attempts to reconcile Fateh and Hamas have failed. A list of issues have kept them apart, including Hamas’ refusal to disarm its military wing.

Abbas moved earlier this month to dissolve the Hamas-controlled Palestinian parliament, which has not met since 2007, when the Islamist seized control of the Gaza Strip.

While the parliament has been largely defunct, Palestinian law allows for its speaker to act as interim president should 83-year-old Abbas die in office.

Abbas’ move came after the Palestinian Constitutional Court in Ramallah issued a ruling to dissolve the parliament and hold elections within six months.

Hamas has said it rejects the move by a court created by Abbas “to legitimise his arbitrary decisions”.

Hamas won the last parliamentary elections in 2006 in a landslide, resulting in an electoral dispute with Fateh.

The Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip the following year, and the split between them and Abbas’ Fateh has persisted.

Abbas has sought to pressure Hamas through other measures, including reducing salaries in Gaza, which is under an Israeli blockade.

Abbas’ term was meant to expire in 2009, but he has remained in office in the absence of elections.

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