Hamas demands immediate release of Palestinian detainees in Saudi Arabia

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Palestinians in Gaza demonstrate against Saudi Arabia’s Bin Salman for his support for Israel

A Hamas spokes-man has condemned the continued detention and prosecution of Palestinian figures in Saudi Arabia over their support for the Palestinian resistance movement, and has urged Riyadh to immediately release them.

‘The national and pan-Arabism duty requires honouring those people and not trying them in this way,’ Hazim Qassim told Lebanon’s Arabic-language al-Mayadeen television on Sunday.

He added that Arab countries should reinforce the Palestinian cause and ‘not weaken its resistance with such trials’.

The spokesman said Hamas has contacted various parties to secure the release of Palestinian detainees in the kingdom, expressing hope that the Saudi authorities will respond and release them.

His remarks came as a Saudi court held the first hearing last Sunday in the case of 68 Palestinian and Jordanian detainees.

They are charged with ‘supporting and financing terrorism’ and belonging to ‘a criminal terrorist entity’.

Senior Hamas official Muhammad al-Khudari and his son Hani, who were arrested last April, were among those who stood trial on Sunday.

Al-Khudari represented Hamas in Saudi Arabia between the mid-1990s and 2003.

He has held other important positions in the Palestinian resistance movement as well.

Saudi Arabia’s repressive measures against the Palestinian resistance movement as well as those seeking to collect donations for people living in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip come as the kingdom and Israel are believed to be planning to publicise their secret ties.

Gaza has been blockaded by the Israeli regime since 2007.

Last month, Saudi authorities launched a new campaign of ‘arbitrary’ arrests against Palestinian expatriates on charges of supporting Hamas.

The Prisoners of Conscience, a non-governmental organisation advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced on February 12 that the kingdom had detained a number of Palestinians, including the relatives or children of those imprisoned last April for the same reason.

Over the past two years, Saudi authorities have deported more than 100 Palestinians from the kingdom, mostly on charges of supporting Hamas financially, politically, or through social networking sites.

On Monday, the Palestinian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the announcement by Israeli Defence Minister Naftali Bennett that he intends to build what he described as ‘sovereignty road’ in the occupied West Bank that would isolate Palestinian towns and separate Palestinian from Israeli commuters on roads east of Jerusalem.

The Israeli media said Bennett had ordered his office to advance the planning of a highway, dubbed ‘sovereignty road’ – for Palestinians only so as to separate them from Israeli commuters in preparation for the building of the highly controversial (and illegal under international law) settlement in the E1 area, east of occupied Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it ‘condemns in the strongest terms the apartheid practices of the Occupying Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.’

It said the road will isolate Palestinian towns in the Jerusalem vicinity, as Israel proceeds to build the E1 settlement, which would ‘close the door once and for all to the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital,’ and ‘deliver a severe blow to all international efforts aimed at launching a peace process and serious negotiations leading to the implementation of the two-state solution.’

The ministry called on the international community, particularly the United Nations Security Council and the European Union, to act immediately to stop Israel’s aggression against the Palestinian territories, warning that not holding Israel accountable for its violations of international laws and UN resolutions would encourage it to continue on this path and eventually annex large areas of the occupied Palestinian territory.

Also on Monday, Israeli forces uprooted hundreds of olive saplings in the village of Wadi Fukin, near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.

Nidal Manasra, member of Wadi Fukin village council, reported that Israeli soldiers raided the village and uprooted about 400 olive saplings planted on land belonging to a local Palestinian resident.

It is worth noting that, during the last couple of weeks, illegal Israeli settlers have also uprooted about 800 olive and vine tress from Palestinian land near Bethlehem.

Also on Monday, Israeli forces detained at least 15 Palestinians in multiple raids across the West Bank.

They seized four Palestinians after ransacking their houses in al-Arroub refugee camp, north of the West Bank city of Hebron.

And in Ramallah district, Israeli forces raided Silwad town, northeast of Ramallah city, detaining two Palestinians.

A similar predawn military raid was conducted in Bittin village, resulting in the detention of one person.

In the northern West Bank, the Israeli military stormed Tulkarm refugee camp, where soldiers rounded up two Palestinians.

Soldiers also detained two others after thoroughly searching their houses in the eastern neighbourhood of Tulkarm city and another from Shweika neighbourhood, north of the city.

Elsewhere in the northern West Bank, local witnesses confirmed a military raid in Jenin city, resulting in the detention of three Palestinians, including a father and his son.

In Nablus district, Israeli forces barged into Sebastia town, north of the city, resulting in the detention of one person.

Medical workers in Gaza confirmed on Monday that two more victims of the fire at Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip have died of their wounds, they are Osama Hasan al-Banna, 50, and Hanafi Mahmoud Abu al-Leil, 41.

This brings the number of fatalities to 13.

A large gas canister exploded at a bakery in Nusseirat camp last Thursday, causing a big fire that engulfed the entire area, damaging many buildings and destroying several vehicles, before tearing through nearby factories, and shops.

Ten people were killed immediately, and at least 56 others were injured, including 14 serious and eight critical.

Meanwhile last Sunday, a number of young Palestinians were suffocated by tear gas fired by Israeli forces during clashes that broke out in the town of Taqou’ near the occupied West Bank district of Bethlehem.

Youth activist, Mustafa al-Badan, reported that clashes erupted at the western entrance to Taqou’ between Palestinian youth and Israeli forces, during which the latter fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the youth.

Also last Sunday, Israeli occupation authorities ordered members of a local Palestinian family in Yarza, in the northern Jordan Valley, to remove their residential tents and animal barns.

Only last December and 1st January this year, Israeli forces demolished tents and animal barns belonging to the same family.

And again last Sunday, this time in Birin near Hebron in the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces seized two excavators belonging to local resident Mohammed Abu Turkey.