Police close Hamas offices in e. J'lem

Four detained in raid after cabinet bans Hamas from J'lem PA election ballot.

hamas campaign 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
hamas campaign 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Israel police and the Shin Bet raided offices linked to the Hamas near Nablus Road in east Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon. An organization called Wifadah was discovered to have been channeling funds to Hamas, to be used for the group's election campaign in east Jerusalem. Following Sunday's raid, the police declared the premises at Damascus Gate closed for a period of 15 days. Detectives detained for questioning four activists who ran the office. Among those detained was Mohamed Abu Tir, who holds the top place on Hamas' electoral list in Jerusalem and is considered second in the Hamas heirarchy. Police also seized computers and documents that were being used for campaigning. The cabinet voted Sunday morning to approve east Jerusalem voting in the January 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Israel stipulated, however, that Hamas would not be a ballot choice for the Jerusalem voters. Outgoing Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called the decision "giving in - crossing the last red line." "I welcome this decision," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri termed the decision as "unacceptable," but said it would not put off the elections. "We don't need Israeli permission to participate in the elections," Abu Zuhri said. Jerusalem police detained six east Jerusalem Hamas activists on Sunday in the Old City who were planning to hold a press conference and campaign for the upcoming elections, police said. Two of the men detained assaulted the police officers that detained them. On Thursday, Hamas announced that it would proceed with its election campaign in Jerusalem despite Israel's decision to ban the movement from campaigning in the city. Posters featuring Hamas candidates have appeared in Arab neighborhoods in the city over the past 48 hours alongside pictures of Fatah representatives. Jerusalem Municipality workers and policemen removed many of the posters. "We have many ways of conducting our election campaign in Jerusalem," said Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri. "We will use private radio and television stations and newspapers to spread our message. We also have many supporters who are working in the field." Masri dubbed the Israeli decision "extortion," saying his movement would not succumb to any threats. He also welcomed the US decision not to interfere in the parliamentary election, scheduled for January 25, adding that Hamas is subordinate to Palestinian law, not American dictates. Sheikh Muhammad Abu Tair, a senior Hamas activist from Umm Tuba in Jerusalem, condemned the Israeli move as an "unjust decision aimed at consolidating Israeli occupation of Jerusalem." Abu Tair, who was recently released from Israeli prison after serving a 25-year sentence, is running as No. 2 on Hamas's nationwide list for the parliamentary vote. He urged the Palestinian Authority to put pressure on Israel to rescind the ban. "Israel is afraid Hamas might win the election," he said. "They have long been waging a campaign against Arabs in Jerusalem and now they want to deprive them of electing their representatives in the Palestinian Legislative Council." Etgar Lefkovits contributed to this story