IDF patrol Hebron298AP.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Security forces briefly detained a Hamas cabinet member on Thursday at a roadblock on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in the first such move since the new Hamas government took office last week, Israeli security officials and Palestinian witnesses said.
Khaled Abu Arafa, the Palestinian Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, was taken into custody along with his bodyguard as he made his way to Eizariya, part of which is in Jerusalem and part of which is in the West Bank.
Abu Arafa, a 45-year-old Jerusalem resident, was detained for trying to enter the Palestinian territories with his Israeli ID card, the security officials said.
The Hamas cabinet minister, who was stopped at a security checkpoint at the entrance to Eizariya, was held for about five hours, although he was not interrogated by the Israelis during this time, the army said.
"This is an attempt by the Israeli government to topple the new Palestinian government and prevent us from providing services for our people," Abu Arafa told the Associated Press after his release.
Abu Arafa had been detained by Israel several times in the past for security-related offenses. He was en route to the previous holder of his office, Ziad Abu Ziad, for a handover ceremony when he was stopped by border policemen at the checkpoint at about 9 a.m. He was then handed over to the Shin Bet security service before being released at Ma'aleh Adumim's police station at 2 p.m.
For the last several years, the Palestinian Jerusalem affairs office has been located in the West Bank portion of Eizariya because interim peace accords bar the Palestinian Authority from carrying out political activity in the city itself. Amid a continuing police crackdown on Palestinian political activity in the capital, Hamas officials have been increasingly operating in nearby West Bank villages.
In an attempt to circumvent Israeli action, Hamas officials suggested last month that they planned to open a new "Orient House" in one of these areas similar to the PLO headquarters in east Jerusalem that Israel shut down five years ago following a deadly suicide bombing at a Jerusalem pizzeria.