Palestinian forces arrest prominent Hamas preacher

Sheikh Kharas nabbed in Nablus; Security official: He actively worked to incite worshippers and called for violence.

September 23, 2007 14:53
1 minute read.

Palestinian police arrested a prominent Hamas preacher in the West Bank on Sunday as a part of its continuing crackdown on the Islamic group. Sheikh Maher Kharas, called the "White Lion" by supporters, is one of Hamas' most prominent members in the West Bank. He was snatched by pro-Fatah Palestinian intelligence officials as he traveled in Nablus, a Hamas spokesman said. The city is considered a stronghold of Hamas, which is locked in a bitter power struggle with rival group Fatah. Security official Abdullah Kumail said Kharas actively worked to incite worshippers, and that he would be briefly detained for questioning. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad warned Islamic preachers in June that he would not tolerate calls for violence delivered from mosque pulpits. Kharas was one of the few preachers to openly defy that warning. The Palestinian Authority fired Kharas, 55, from his preaching job in 1996 during a crackdown on militant Hamas preachers after a series of suicide bombings in Israel. Hamas reinstated him last year after winning legislative elections. The Fatah-led government in the West Bank has been cracking down on Hamas loyalists since the Islamic group violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. The infighting has left the Palestinians with separate governments, a Fatah-led authority in the West Bank, and a Hamas authority in Gaza. Hamas says 700 members have been detained since June, and 150 remain behind bars without charge. Hamas authorities in Gaza, meanwhile, have engaged in their own crackdown on Fatah loyalists.

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