Palestinian forces shut “Hamas fronts” in Hebron

HEBRON, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s forces shut down four Islamic charities and two photocopying shops in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday for alleged ties to the rival Hamas faction, a security source said.

The crackdown in Hebron followed similar actions in other areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank by Abbas, who has been pursuing a law-and-order drive since breaking with Hamas last year over the Islamists’ violent seizure of the Gaza Strip.

Abbas is under pressure to assert control in the West Bank so U.S.-sponsored talks with Israel can progress. Abbas’s administration complains that continued Israeli raids against suspected Palestinian militants undermine his credibility.

A Palestinian security source said the four Hebron charities that were closed were “linked to Hamas fundraising”. The photocopying shops had been “publishing incitement against the Palestinian Authority,” the source said. There were no arrests.

Hamas officials in Hebron, where support for the Islamists is widespread, could not immediately be reached for comment. Organizers of the targeted charities declined to be interviewed.

Abbas, whose forces have received extra U.S. and European support since his secular Fatah faction split with Hamas, has deployed Palestinian security forces in Nablus, Jenin and other West Bank towns in the past year, with some success in controlling the areas.

Brigadier-General Samih al-Saifi, the Palestinian security chief for the Hebron area, told Reuters this week that he wants to bring in more than 600 security men, now completing training in Jordan and Jericho, to bolster Palestinian Authority control.

But Israel has given no indication it might approve such a deployment in Hebron, where some 650 heavily guarded Jewish settlers live in a simmering stand-off with 30,000 Palestinians.

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