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Israeli troops arrested the speaker of the Palestinian parliament in his home in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday, pressing ahead with its month-old offensive against Hamas, the Islamic terrorist group that heads the Palestinian Authority.
The early-morning arrest of parliament Speaker Abdel Aziz Dweik came over a month after dozens of other Hamas officials were apprehended by Israeli forces in similar raids, following a Hamas cross-border attack at an Israeli military outpost in which two soldiers were killed, and a third, 19-year-old Cpl. Gilad Shalit was kidnapped.
The parliament Speaker is the most senior Hamas politician arrested to date, and his detention is seen as an effort to pressure the Islamic group to work towards Shalit's release.
The IDF said that as a leader of a terror organization, Dweik was a target for arrest.
During the nighttime raid, Israeli troops from the Duchifat battalion, backed by about 15 jeeps and armored vehicles, surrounded Dweik's home and took him into custody.
The soldiers also confiscated documents and a private laptop computer from the house, according to Palestinian eyewitnesses.
Troops had twice previously surrounded the Hamas official's home over the last month, but had failed to arrest him.
The arrest came one day after Hamas said it would not allow Red Cross officials to visit the abducted Israeli soldier, and amidst a stalemate in Egyptian-led negotiations for Shalit's release.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the action, accusing Israel of "piracy."
Israel launched its ongoing military offensive against Hamas on June 28, in an effort to garner Shalit's release and to bring a halt to continuing Palestinian cross-border rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli cities.
More than 160 Palestinians, most of them gunmen, have been killed in the military operations in the Gaza Strip over the last five weeks.