Israel Arrests Dozens of Hamas Activists, Lawmakers in West Bank

Ramallah-based human rights group says Israeli arrest campaign meant to undermine Palestinian reconciliation efforts between Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party.

Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury

Israel Defense Forces soldiers arrested 25 Palestinians in the West Bank early Monday, including top Hamas activists, a Palestinian rights group reported.

An army spokeswoman in Tel Aviv confirmed the arrests, but did not provide further details.

Hamas has said that at least 21 well-known activists from Nablus, Tul Karm, Hebron, Qalqilyah, Bethlehem and Ramallah were arrested.

Among those detained are Adnan Asfour, from Nablus, Omar Aljabarini of the Balata refugee camp, Dr. Zinedine Shabana from Hebron and Palestinian Legislative Council member Ahmed Atoun from Jerusalem, whom Israel had arrested for several months and released on condition he stay out of Ramallah.

The Ramallah-based Ahrar Centre for Human Rights said those arrested and legislators also included Hatem Qfeishe and Muhammad al-Tul from Hebron.

Palestinian sources said that in addition to the arrests, Israeli soldiers broke into the headquarters of a charitable organization in Tul Karm this morning and confiscated papers and equipment, including computers.

A website affiliated with Hamas reported that the detainees' family members said soldiers burst into their houses with dogs, arrested the activists and took them to Israeli security facilities.

Hamas and the rights centre said the Israeli arrest campaign intends to undermine Palestinian reconciliation efforts between the radical Islamist movement ruling Gaza and its main rival, President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party.

Hamas, which routinely denounces the security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, condemned the arrests, but has refrained from criticizing the Palestinian Authority at this stage.

At the same time, Hamas is also reporting that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas held a meeting Sunday evening with leading Palestinian security officials in the West Bank.

Meanwhile, Israeli security forces arrested five protesters in two villages near Nablus, in the northern West Bank, on Sunday.

Palestinian Authority sources noted that there have been several incidents in recent weeks involving armed groups, some of which are identified with Fatah, most notably in the Balata refugee camp.

Activists from the villages of Burin and Orif had set up a protest camp near a Jewish settlement on Saturday, but the Israeli army quickly removed them from the site.

The Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers and border police officers searched for suspects involved in stone-throwing at Israeli forces in the villages.

The Palestinian camp was the fourth set up - and subsequently removed by Israel - over the past month, in a new tactic used by Palestinian activists to protest Israeli settlement expansion.

Palestinian protesters hold flags amid smoke of tear gas during clashes with Israeli soldiers as Palestinians set up a new camp to protest against Jewish settlements near West Bank village of BurinCredit: AFP

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