Hamas is no stranger to controversy and earlier this week, there was a significant spike in tensions. According to reports, scores of Hamas members and affiliates have been arrested in the Occupied West Bank by Israeli authorities. Among those detained were noted Hasm spokesman and senior Hamas leader, Hazem Qassem, who is believed to have been taken into custody over an unspecified security-related matter.
The wave of arrests have sent shockwaves through the Palestinian population of the West Bank and Palestinian territories more generally.Relatives of those detained fear the worst- including harsh interrogation and detention conditions likely to be faced by those taken into custody.
The detention of Qassem is a significant move by Israel. He had been a vocal opponent of the prevailing Israeli occupation, maintaining his opposition to Israel regardless of the personal costs. His outspoken stance remains a challenge to Israeli authority and represents a strong symbol of defiance against Israeli policies many regard as oppressive.
It remains unclear as to the length of detention Qassem is likely to face. However, it is almost certain that the detention of Qassem and other Hamas activists will be met with a strong and critical response from international human rights groups and left wing activists, all of whom have deep concerns for the safety and welfare of those detained.
The arrests of Hamas activists are likely to have long-standing repercussions, with some suggesting fears of an escalation of violent action. Similarly, it highlights concerns of an erosion of basic autonomy, freedom and justice within the Occupied West Bank area.
The international community must take note of the situation and call on both sides to show restraint. The recent wave of arrests combined with deteriorating living conditions and lack of basic rights on both sides makes for a volatile environment, and any further deterioration would be a tragedy.