Palestinian Authority clamps down on Islamists funded by Gulf states

Special to

RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority has maintained pressure on a
Gulf-supported Islamist movement.

Officials said PA security forces have been ordered to quell protests or
rallies by the Hizb Al Tahrir movement. They said Hizb, estimated to have
more than 50,000 supporters, sought to expand activities with funding from
Gulf Cooperation Council states.

Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Hizb ut-Tahrir movement demonstrate at a rally in Ramallah.
Palestinian supporters of the Islamic Hizb Al Tahrir movement demonstrate at a rally in Ramallah.

“This is a Salafist group that although currently non-violent can easily
turn to terror in the future,” an official said.

Officials acknowledged that restrictions on Hizb were eased in 2012 as
part of an effort by the ruling Fatah movement to reconcile with the Hamas opposition. But they said the PA resumed its crackdown in the spring of 2013 as Fatah reconciliation talks with Hamas reached a stalemate.

Hizb was said to be active in most Palestinian cities in the West Bank,
including Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin and Tulkarm. On May 4, PA police and anti-riot units dispersed a Hizb protest in the northern city of Jenin.

Hundreds of Islamists had protested a reported Arab League proposal for
a PA land swap with Israel. Many of them held signs that read “The issue of Palestine can only be resolved through liberation.”

PA security forces arrested four Hizb members. The PA did not formally
charge the Islamists.

Officials said Hizb has gained sponsors in Qatar and the United Arab
Emirates. So far, they said, the two GCC states have not openly intervened
for the movement.

“We don’t expect foreign intervention, but in any case this will not
stop our vigilance for Palestinian security,” the official said.

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