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World News

Palestinians arrest supporters of Abbas rival based in UAE

RAMALLAH, West Bank/GAZA (Reuters) - Palestinian security forces arrested over half a dozen supporters of an exiled Palestinian politician who some have accused of involvement in the United Arab Emirates deal to forge ties with Israel, a spokesman for his faction said.

FILE PHOTO: Mohammed Dahlan, a former Fatah security chief, gestures in his office in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates October 18, 2016. Picture taken October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

Mohammed Dahlan has lived in the UAE since being driven out of the Israeli-occupied West Bank in 2011 after a bitter row with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his political party Fatah, of which Dahlan is a member.

The Gulf Arab country’s deal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel has angered Palestinians and stirred widespread speculation that Dahlan played a role.

Dahlan’s faction has criticised Arab countries forming relations with Israel before its conflict with the Palestinians is resolved, though he has not outright denied involvement.

On Monday, seven members of Dahlan’s faction were arrested by security forces from Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA), which has limited self-rule in the West Bank, according to Dahlan faction spokesman Imad Mohsen, who called the arrests “politically motivated”.

The arrests were carried out in the West Bank and included Haytham al-Halabi and Salim Abu Safia, both senior members of Dahlan’s faction, a statement from the group said.

In a statement, the Palestinian security forces said they had detained Halabi from a village near the West Bank city of Nablus as part of “a continuation of efforts to impose security and order”.

The statement did not mention any other arrests.

The PA’s interior ministry declined comment.

A former Gaza security chief, Dahlan has long been floated as a potential successor to Abbas. He has cultivated close ties with UAE leaders since his exile.

The UAE and fellow Gulf Arab state Bahrain signed normalisation agreements with Israel at the White House last week in a ceremony hosted by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The deals were the first such accommodations between Arab countries and Israel in more than 20 years, and were forged partly through shared fears of Iran.

Palestinians have called the moves a betrayal, fearing they would weaken a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of a Palestinian state in return for normal relations with Israel.

Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by Rami Ayyub; Editing by Howard Goller

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