'Israel has declared war on Hamas in West Bank'

Palestinians say arrest of 5 Hamas legislators a ploy to sabotage Palestinian reconciliation, hurt Hamas in elections.

By
January 25, 2012 05:58
2 minute read.
Hamas official Dweik in military court

Hamas official Dweik in military court_311. (photo credit: Reuters)

 
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Israel has declared war on Hamas representatives in the West Bank, Palestinians said Tuesday, pointing out that five legislators belonging to the Islamist movement have been arrested in the past few days.

Early Tuesday, IDF soldiers arrested Abdel Jabbar Fukaha, a Hamas legislator, in Ramallah and confiscated documents, a laptop and mobile phones from his home.

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Fukaha’s wife said that soldiers raided their home around 2 a.m. and arrested her husband after conducting a thorough search.

She said that their son Mujahed was served with a summons for interrogation next Sunday, and added that the soldiers who arrested her husband told him to bring clothes “because [Speaker of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council] Abdel Aziz Dweik is waiting for him.”

Fukaha was released from Israeli prison in February 2011 after serving a four-month sentence.

Dweik, the highest ranking Hamas official in the West Bank, was arrested last Thursday as he was driving home from Ramallah to Hebron. He has since been placed under a six-month administrative detention.

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Shortly afterward, soldiers arrested Hamas legislator Khaled Tafesh in Bethlehem.

On Sunday, Jerusalem Police raided the offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Sheikh Jarrah and arrested Hamas officials Khaled Abu Arafeh and Muhammad Totah.

The pair have staged a sit-in protest in the offices over the past year and a half, in an effort to avoid deportation from Jerusalem after their Israeli-issued ID cards were revoked by the Interior Ministry.

Abu Arafah served as minister for Jerusalem affairs in the Hamas government, while Totah was a Hamas representative in the legislative council.

A few months ago, Jerusalem Police arrested Mahmoud Atoun, another Hamas legislator who was hiding inside the Red Cross offices with Abu Arafah and Totah.

In a related development, Hamas legislators in Tulkarm said on Tuesday that an Israeli security official phoned them and ordered them to close their office immediately.

The legislators, Fathi Qarawi and Riad Raddad, said this was the second such threat they had received in a month.

They said that the threat was part of an Israeli campaign to destroy Hamas in the West Bank. “Israel has declared war on Hamas,” they said. “But we won’t be deterred and we will continue to fulfill our duties.”

Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip said they believed that the Israeli crackdown on their West Bank representatives was aimed at sabotaging efforts to achieve reconciliation between the movement and Fatah.

One official said that the clampdown was also designed to foil plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in the Palestinian territories in May.

“Israel thinks that the arrests will destroy Hamas’s chances of winning the elections,” the official added. “On the contrary, these measures will only increase Hamas’s popularity.”

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri denounced the Israeli actions as a “fierce war” against Hamas. He called on human rights organizations to intervene and pressure Israel to secure the release of “legislators who were elected by the people in a democratic vote.”

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