Palestinians hand 20-year sentence to Hamas fighter

The ruling could harm reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah.

Ramallah: The Western-backed Palestinian Authority has sentenced a Hamas fighter to 20 years in prison over a deadly 2009 shootout with Palestinian police, a court official said on Tuesday.

The sentence infuriated Hamas and cast a shadow over plans to hold a second round of reconciliation talks in Syria with its Fatah rivals later this month.

Alaa Hisham Diab was sentenced by a military court on Monday after having been arrested following a May 2009 battle in the West Bank town of Qalqilya that left three Palestinian security forces and two Hamas fighters dead.

Ahmad Mubaid, the head of the military court, said the conviction was a "criminal matter and not a political one”, and that Diab received a military trial "because the crime was against the military establishment”.

A senior Hamas official in the West Bank said the ruling could harm reconciliation efforts.

"It`s a very sad state of affairs when Palestinians hand down these harsh sentences on their own in military courts," Omar Abdelrazaq said.

"On the one hand there is the lack of legality of the courts that issue these verdicts, and on the other these verdicts come while there is talk of coming closer to reaching internal reconciliation," he said.

"I think there are some Palestinians who do not want this reconciliation to come about," he said, without elaborating.

The armed wing of Hamas, meanwhile, accused the Palestinian Authority of "national treason”, saying it had "made itself the security guard of the Zionist enemy by acting like the (Israeli) occupation”.