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Hamas threatens backlash over militants' arrest

The leaders of the Western-backed Fatah movement are warned over the arrest of fighters in the West Bank.

GAZA CITY // Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups on Wednesday threatened the leaders of the Western-backed Fatah movement over the arrest of fighters in the West Bank. 

Masked representatives of the groups gave a press conference in which they slammed the detention of militants by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which Hamas drove out of Gaza in June 2007. 

"What is happening in the West Bank is a vicious attack on the sons of the resistance ... it has taken a dangerous turn that requires a severe response," they said in a joint statement.

"This response will target the leaders of the Fatah movement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip." Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida gave a slightly less stern statement that appeared to refer to a second round of reconciliation talks with Fatah planned for October 20 in the Syrian capital Damascus, the headquarters of Hamas's exiled leadership. "If Palestinian reconciliation is not able to prevent Fatah from taking these aggressive actions against the resistance, then no one will blame us if we target its leaders wherever they are," he said at the press conference.

Since the takeover of Gaza both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have arrested and mistreated scores of political rivals in the territories under their control, according to Palestinian and international human rights groups. The Hamas-run government in Gaza has been singled out for executing convicted murderers and spies for Israel after trying them in military courts. Both sides have denied detaining or sentencing anyone for political reasons.

Earlier this week a military court run by the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank sentenced a Hamas fighter to 20 years in prison for taking part in a 2009 shootout with Palestinian security forces. The sentence infuriated the armed wing of Hamas, which accused the Authority of "treason" and compared it to the Israeli occupation. 

* AFP

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