Israel cracks down on Hamas as Palestinian election nears

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — In the late hours of April 12, Israeli particular forces arrested Najeh Assi, a candidate for the Hamas motion within the upcoming Palestinian legislative elections and the motion’s consultant in Ramallah and al-Bireh governorate, after raiding his home within the metropolis of al-Bireh near Ramallah within the central West Bank. 

Assi’s arrest got here lower than every week after Hassan al-Wardian, one other Hamas candidate, was arrested April 6 at daybreak. after Israeli forces raided his home within the West Bank metropolis of Bethlehem.

Wardian, 57, was the primary candidate on the “Jerusalem is Our Goal” record to be arrested following the record’s official registration with the Palestinian Central Election Commission on March 29. Wardian is No. 19 on Hamas’ record.

Even earlier than Hamas registered its electoral record, Israel had launched an arrest marketing campaign towards main candidates on Hamas’ record within the West Bank. The variety of arrested candidates has reached 11, together with seven who had been apprehended shortly earlier than the record’s registration and two who already had been imprisoned. Among these arrested had been Mustafa al-Shunnar, Adnan Asfour, Yasser Mansour, Khaled al-Hage, Abdel Baset al-Hage and Omar al-Hanbali.

On April 13, the members of Hamas’ electoral record held a press convention in Ramallah following Assi’s arrest, calling on the worldwide neighborhood to intervene to place an finish to the Israeli arrest marketing campaign towards its candidates. 

In an April 6 press launch, Hamas stated that Wardian’s arrest reveals Israeli efforts to sabotage the vote.

The arrests haven’t been restricted to candidates, but in addition concerned prime officers and main figures working for the motion forward of the elections. On April 12, Anas Rasras, Omar al-Qawasmi and the top of the Palestine Scholars League Sheikh, Mustafa Shawer, had been arrested throughout Israeli raids of their houses in Hebron. 

On April 9, prime Hamas official Rizk Rajoub was arrested after his home in Hebron was stormed and searched by Israeli forces.

The Ramallah-based Foreign Ministry and human rights and different organizations condemned the arrests of Wardian and Assi, describing the move as an interference in Palestinian elections. 

The newest arrests come amid issues amongst Hamas members about extra Israeli motion towards the motion’s candidates within the coming weeks. 

In this context, Mohamad Sabha, a Hamas chief and candidate within the legislative elections, instructed Al-Monitor, “There are 11 candidates on the list currently incarcerated in Israeli prisons. Two of them are serving a life sentence, and the remaining nine were arrested upon announcing the Palestinian elections, including seven candidates that were arrested before Hamas’ list was registered, and two candidates arrested following the registration.”

Commenting on the motion’s fear of additional arrests, Sabha stated, “As they registered for the elections, the candidates prepared themselves for arrests, pursuits, travel bans, raids of their homes and confiscation of their money.” 

“We condemn the [Israeli] occupation’s arrests that amount to a violation of basic human rights and democratic foundations, and we call on the world countries and human rights institutions to pressure Israel to stop the arrests,” he added.

The Palestinian factions had agreed throughout talks in Cairo in March to a Palestinian Legislative Council based mostly on parliamentary rules, which might enable every parliamentary bloc to interchange any of its arrested members with one other member. Such a move would stop any obstruction of parliamentary exercise and a repeat of the 2006 expertise. This settlement, which is a part of a plan to counter any Israeli try to hinder the vote, will morph right into a legislation as soon as the brand new council convenes.

Sabha added, “Hamas does not want the electoral process to be influenced by any development, and insists on holding these elections on time.” He confused that the arrest of candidates will have an effect on the record’s communication actions with the general public, along with the electoral marketing campaign and attraction of votes. That is as a result of every candidate has affect in his or her space. Subsequently, arrest will stop them from exercising this affect, Sabha stated.

Israel, in the meantime, fears that Hamas would possibly win the legislative elections, equally to the 2006 vote.

Speaking to Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation Kan on April 1, Coordinator of Government Activities within the Territories Kamil Abu Rukun stated Israel will halt all its safety coordination with the Palestinians if Hamas wins the legislative elections. “It is a major mistake to go through with these elections due to the high risk of Hamas winning.”

Israel’s Walla information web site quoted April 9 Israeli officers as saying that US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi the 2 international locations’ issues concerning the Palestinian legislative elections and a few potential Hamas victory. Yet the 2 sides haven’t expressed these issues publicly in order to keep away from the accusation of thwarting the elections.

After Hamas formally registered its record on the Palestinian Central Election Commission, the candidates within the West Bank held their first assembly April three at one in every of Ramallah’s accommodations.

Alaa Hamdan, Hamas chief and candidate, instructed Al-Monitor that Hamas took a number of rules under consideration when forming the record, most notably demographic range and distribution in every of the governorates. There are younger individuals and feminine candidates on the record, along with competent figures within the scientific and commerce union spheres. That would assist deliver concerning the desired change and reforms within the council and allow the enactment of legal guidelines and laws that will additional the residents’ pursuits, he added.

He stated the record consists of 88 candidates from the Gaza Strip, together with Palestinian prisoner Hassan Salameh. But the latter’s nomination on the record was rejected as a result of his title will not be registered on the voter record, and that could be a precondition for any candidacy. There are additionally 44 candidates within the West Bank, together with the 2 candidates sentenced to life in jail, and the 9 just lately arrested candidates.

He stated there are 33 girls on the record; they’re 25% of the candidates. There are 46 younger individuals (aged between 28-39), or 35%. As for these between the ages of 40 and 49, they encompass 27%, or 35 candidates, whereas 41 candidates maintain a grasp’s diploma and 26 candidates maintain a Ph.D., he stated.

The candidates’ gathering was Hamas’ first public assembly within the West Bank in years. It allowed the candidates to get to know one another, get some paperwork executed and talk about work mechanisms in preparation for the elections.

Commenting on whether or not or not Hamas has a plan to confront the Israeli arrest marketing campaign, Hamdan stated, “The occupation may target the candidates at any time, and already sent threat messages not only to the candidates, but also to those who could be working for the movement before and after the registration of the electoral list. Hence, nothing guarantees that the occupation refrains from making arrests.” 

Israel is attempting “to intimidate the candidates. The arrests consist of direct interference in the Palestinian elections, and they seek to prevent the list from carrying out its electoral campaign,” he added.