Ramallah: The Israeli army said on Monday it arrested 25 Hamas members during the night in the West Bank, among them three parliamentarians according to sources in the Islamist movement.
The army said that “overnight 25 Palestinians were arrested all over the West Bank,” but did not provide details.
Sources in Hamas said “20 senior Hamas members were arrested in the West Bank, among them three parliament members.” It named them as Hatem Kafisha, the lawmaker and Hamas leader from Nablus, and Mohammad Al Tal, from Balatah Refugee Camp, who were arrested in Hebron, and Ahmad Atoun, the lawmaker who had been deported from Jerusalem to Ramallah, who was detained in Ramallah.
Hamas has 74 members in the 132-seat Palestinian National Authority Legislative Council, which is based in Ramallah. The latest arrests bring to 12 the number of Hamas lawmakers being held by Israel.
Palestinians officials believe the Hamas arrests are intended to hamper the ongoing efforts at uniting the ranks of Hamas and Fatah.
At the dawn prayers (about 5:00 am), a large number of Israeli forces in military jeeps raided several cities and towns in the West Bank and arrested at the political leaders.
Fuad Al Khofash, who heads Ahrar Centre for Prisoners Studies and Human Rights, said that the Israelis engage in such arrests prior to reconciliation talks between the two Palestinian rivals, Fatah and Hamas. “Now, the role of the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinian National Authority becomes significant in the moves to stop the continuing Israeli violations against Palestinian symbols and lawmakers,” he said.
Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi condemned the arrests.
She described them as “deliberate Israeli plans to destabilise the internal situation, interfere in Palestinian institutions... and deal a blow to national reconciliation” between Fatah and Hamas, which respectively govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Security sources have told AFP that Israel plans to step up arrests of suspected fighters in the West Bank to prevent a rising tide of low-intensity conflict and civil unrest from turning into an uprising.
The crackdown comes amid an increase in Palestinian unrest which Israel ties to fallout from the eight-day battle between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in November.
In Hebron, Dr. Zain Al Deen Shabanah, a university professor and Hamas leader, along with four other leaders were arrested in the operation.
Shaikh Falah Nada, a Hamas leader from Al Beirah, was arrested along with Hamas leaders Adnan Al Khodari and Fadi Al Amouri from Tulkarem.
In Qalqilia, Hamas leaders Riyad Walweel and Mohsen Hardan along with the Hamas leader Maamoun Zawaherah from Bethlehem were arrested in the military operation.
During the Israeli operation, military forces raided the premises of the Zakat (alms) Committee in Tulkarem, destroying its belongings and seizing the institution’s computers and laptops.
- with inputs from AFP