Palestinian Authority (PA) security forces have rounded up more than two-dozen Hamas supporters on West Bank college campuses for interrogation in recent weeks.
A Hamas-aligned student group won an April 22 student council election at Birzeit University, which is located near the PA’s de facto capital of Ramallah.
“Everyone knew that this was going to happen,” Nagham Yassin, a Palestinian student at Birzeit, told Al Jazeera. “It happened last time the Islamic bloc won in 2007. Everyone assumed it would happen this time. Anyone who goes into student politics-especially Hamas supporters-knows they risk arrest.”
According to another Hamas supporter, Jihad Saleem, PA security forces allegedly blindfolded him, deprived him of sleep, and held him in stress positions during his 24-hour interrogation.
“They wanted to know how the Islamic bloc won the elections. They wanted to know how Hamas’s supporters had funded the election campaign on the campus,” Saleem told Al Jazeera.
A Human Rights Watch report said that 25 students have been arrested, detained, or summoned for interrogation since April 22.
Despite signing a unity agreement a year ago, little progress has been made between the PA and Hamas, with leaders on both sides declaring the deal dead. Israel has long feared Hamas’s presence in the West Bank and has cited those concerns in peace negotiations. Last year, Hamas terrorists abducted and murdered three Israeli teenagers near the Israeli town of Gush Etzion in the West Bank.