“Scores Arrested in Occupied West Bank – Hamas Spokesman Reportedly Among Them
This week has seen a major crackdown on Palestinian activities in the occupied West Bank. According to reports, dozens of alleged members of the militant group Hamas have been arrested in recent days, with one of those arrested being the spokesman of the group, Hazem Kassem. The arrests come amidst increased tensions between Palestinian and Israeli forces in the region. With the recent announcement of a Jerusalem annexation plan by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, various Palestinian factions have increased their demands for a more unified approach to protests and resistance. Although Hamas has officially condemned the plan, it is also seen as having vastly increased-support for acts of civil disobedience among Palestinians. With the Israeli government moving to suppress this unrest it appears a more aggressive stance is being taken, with the West Bank's most prominent spokesman now being arrested. Kassem, who has an extensive history in protest and advocacy for Palestinian rights, has been highly critical of the Israeli government in recent years - and on several occasions of its strong-arm tactics. However, he and Hamas continue to call for peaceful protests and have consistently opposed violence and terror. What is clear is that the arrest of Kassem only serves to increase already heightened tension in the region, with the potential for both sides to launch further reprisal attacks or arrests. Going forward, it appears that the protests in the West Bank - and the issue of Jerusalem annexation - are set to remain a major flashpoint for the foreseeable future.