Five more Hamas officials arrested in east Jerusalem

Five senior Hamas officials operating in east Jerusalem were arrested before dawn on Thursday, in a continuing crackdown on the Islamist organization's activity in the capital, police said. The five suspects had been helping local Palestinian Legislative Council members administer Hamas activity in the city until the latter were arrested last week, Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. Also Thursday, Muhammad Abu Tir, a Palestinian Legislative Council member whom the IDF arrested on June 29 along with 63 other Hamas officials, was among 26 prisoners whose remands were extended by military court justices Thursday. Abu Tir and nine other men were taken before the a military court at Camp Ofer, near Givat Ze'ev Their remands were extended by eight days, even as the 10 said they didn't recognize the court's authority. But the most fiery protests took place in a courtroom in Salem, where hearings for nine Hamas prisoners were held in their absence after they were expelled from the courtroom. The nine, all Hamas officials in Palestinian Authority, refused to stand before the judge entered the courtroom, creating what a Prisons Service officer termed a "provocation." According to the Prisons Service, the suspects displayed contempt for the proceedings, waving their hands in the air and shouting, "We have been kidnapped" and that they did not recognize the court's authority. Members of the Prisons Service's Nahshon unit took the suspects from the courtroom to holding cells on the premises. Later, the judge instructed that the prisoners be brought to the courtroom one at a time. They prisoners once again refused to stand before the judge. As a result, the judge decided that the proceedings would be held in the prisoner's absence. All of the Hamas members taken before IDF courts Thursday were arrested one week ago in the West Bank and Jerusalem last week, in response to the kidnappings of Cpl. Gilad Shalit and 18-year-old Itamar resident Eliahu Asheri. All told, 64 Hamas members were arrested during the raids, including eight of Hamas's 23 cabinet ministers and 20 of its 72 lawmakers were arrested. The detainees included such senior figures as Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek, Labor Minister Muhammad Barghouti and the mayors of Kalkilya and Jenin. On June 30, Israel revoked Abu Tir's Jerusalem residency along with that of three other senior Hamas officials - PA Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khaled Abu Arafa, and two Hamas legislators, Ahmed Abu Atoun and Mahmoud Totach. They were among the men whose remands were extended Thursday by eight days. Their attorney said last week that he would ask the High Court of Justice to reverse the decision to cancel their residency rights. As city residents, the Hamas parliamentarians, like the rest of Jerusalem's 240,000 Arabs, were eligible for an array of social services, including health care, unemployment and social security benefits. Most Arabs living in the capital hold permanent residency cards and Jordanian passports, having turned down citizenship because they oppose Israeli control of the city. Since the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, they have shunned municipal elections - even though they pay city taxes - but they turned out to vote en masse for Hamas in January's Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The overwhelming majority of Jerusalem Arabs have remained on the sidelines during the violence of the past five years, but most of the suicide bombings in the city were carried out with the help of local accomplices, whose freedom of movement proved invaluable to terrorist organizations. The Israeli identity cards Jerusalem Arabs carry have become increasingly valuable because of the increased travel restrictions caused by the construction of the separation barrier between Jerusalem and the West Bank.