Undercover Israeli forces raided a popular park in the village of Dura Al-Qara, northeast of the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, on Tuesday and arrested seven Palestinian students who are enrolled at Birzeit University.
All the students are members of the Islamic Bloc – the student wing of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas. They were arrested on the eve of the student elections at the university.
Their families, relatives and friends said they believe they were arrested as a result of a successful electoral debate which was held at the university just hours before they were detained.
Once Israeli occupation authorities placed Islamic Bloc member, Motasem Zalloum, in Ofer Prison with Fatah members, his family were sure he was arrested due to his political persuasions. Motasem was beaten by the detainees who belong to the rival political bloc.
The attack on Zalloum was condemned by most Palestinian factions, including by many Fatah supporters.
Hamas said the attack on Zalloum was pre-planned because the Israel Prison Services (IPS) separate him from the other six activists who were arrested with him. The IPS sent him to the bloc where Fatah members are incarcerated alone, when he refused the IPS said he would have to spent some time there for administrative reasons.
This narrative was confirmed by prisoners from other Palestinian factions. A source from the Israeli prison where Zalloum was beaten told Quds Press that he was intentionally handed over to Fatah prisoners.
I heard a recorded message sent by a prisoner from the same prison saying: "When Zalloum entered the room, he was led to the bathroom where he was beaten by 10 to 15 prisoners, some hit him with sticks and some with their hands until he suffered pains all over his body."
According to the Israeli media and sources from Zalloum's family, he was admitted to the prison clinic for treatment as a result of the wounds he sustained all over his body.
Before, during and after the students' elections, the security services of the Palestinian Authority – which is run by Fatah – carried out an active campaign against the students who are involved in the elections along with their families. Members of the Islamic Bloc were summoned to the PA's security offices and were threatened with imprisonment or attacked over their activism.
Families reported that they received text messages warning them that their sons would be punished if they voted for the Islamic Bloc.
The PA security officers, including high ranking commanders from different security agencies, worked together with Fatah students inside and outside the university, while the Israeli occupation authorities chased members and leaders of the Islamic Bloc and arrested them before the elections.
I remember this happened every year when I was studying at the Islamic University of Gaza between 1997 and 2001, members and nominees of the Islamic Bloc were arrested regularly before student elections.
The occurrences of this week confirm that there is full security cooperation between the PA and the Israeli occupation authorities during elections. This was clear in the parliamentary elections which were held in 2006, and in the municipal elections which were held later.
Hamas did not officially take part in the municipal elections held in a number of West Bank cities in March, but many of its members and supporters ran in the elections on independent lists. They were fully recognised by the PA and Israeli security services, and they were either arrested or had their movement restricted in order not to be allow them to reach voters.
Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation afforded full freedoms to candidates running on the Fatah slate and issued VIP passes to them allowing them to move more freely through checkpoints. The Palestinian Central Elections Committee described the Israeli measures as "dangerous"; considered them "explicit interference in the electoral process and a violation of freedoms and democratic practices."
Political analyst from the occupied West Bank, Fadi Salameen, said: "This is full security cooperation between the PA and the Israeli occupation that aimed to undermine victory for any candidate from Hamas or close to Hamas."
Meanwhile, Waleed Agha, a former prisoner who spent 13 years inside Israeli jails, described the Israeli restrictions and arrest of members of the Islamic Bloc as "clear support for Fatah's list." Agha ran for the Islamic Bloc at the Islamic University of Gaza in 1998 and 1999, two years before he was arrested by the Israeli occupation.
He confirmed that there is full security cooperation between the leaders of Fatah prisoners and the IPS. Former Fatah official from Gaza, who spend years in Israeli prisons, Khaled Abu Hilal, reiterated this, noting that Fatah leaders offer their cooperation to the IPS in return for "trivial gains."
Speaking to Palestine TV following the Islamic Bloc's victory in Birzeit University, Secretary-General of Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub, said that Fatah is paying the price for the PA's mistakes.
During the electoral debate, hours before he was arrested, Zalloum compared the Israeli aggression during journalist Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral to the PA's aggression during protests that erupted following the murder of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat. May be this is why the PA and Israel agreed to subject him to joint punishment.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.