Gaza govt says 5 detained not journalists

12:00 Dec 6 2011 Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Two journalist organizations in the West Bank have accused Gaza's security services of detaining five journalists, but the government says the group are working for the rival government in Ramallah.

The Union of Journalists in Ramallah and the Fatah bureau for journalists said in a statement Friday that security forces in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip detained four male and one female journalist last week after ransacking their homes and offices.

They named the five as Salah Abu Salah, Mahmoud Abu Rayya, Hani al-Agha, Ziad Awda, and Manal Khamees.

The government media office in Gaza responded that the group "had nothing to do with professional journalist work, but rather are security agents working on certain missions for the Ramallah government."

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip a year after winning national elections in 2006 over Fatah, as tensions between the rival parties exploded into near civil war.

With Fatah dominating the separate government in Ramallah, Palestinians are in effect divided into dual administrations. Both accuse the other party of political detention campaigns and abuses against politicians, journalists, and civil society.

The parties are hammering out the implementation arrangements of a May unity deal to reconcile the two governments, with party leaders meeting in Cairo last week. On Friday, the Fatah journalists bureau accused the Gaza government of disturbing the positive atmosphere in the wake of reconciliation by arresting journalists.

It also said the detention of journalists would harm Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas' bid for full Palestinian membership of the United Nations, the September initiative which Hamas was always wary of.

But the government said the group were investigated for being security personnel affiliated to the Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

Some would be released after questioning, they said, and the woman amongst them was never detained but only summoned for questioning.

Salah Abu Salah and Hani Al-Agha were released Thursday evening, a Ma'an reporter said.
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