Israel arrests 22 Hamas members ahead of Fatah-Hamas talks

Israeli soldiers stand guard near a house during a military operation carried out to arrest Palestinians in the West Bank city of Jenin on 3 February 2013. (Photo: AFP - Saif Dahlah)

Published Monday, February 4, 2013

Israeli forces led an arrest sweep of at least 22 Hamas members Sunday night and Monday morning, including 3 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

The Israeli military confirmed arrests were made but would not elaborate further.

The Palestinian Ma’an news agency identified two of the MPs as Hatim Qafisha of Hebron and Ahmad Attoun of Jerusalem. Qafisha has previously been detained six times by Israel, whereas Attoun was forcibly transferred from Jerusalem to the West Bank by Israeli forces.

The third MP was identified by WAFA news agency as Mohammad al-Tul from Dahrieh.

Israel has a history of arresting Palestinian politicians and legislators, mainly targeting members of the pro-Hamas Change and Reform bloc since 2006, when Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.

According to prisoners’ rights NGO Addameer, nearly a third of all members of the Palestinian Legislative Council were held in Israeli prisons in 2009.

The recent upsurge in arrests is most likely a response to Friday’s planned talks between rival Palestinian parties Hamas and Fatah as a way to undermine attempts at Palestinian political unity, according to Murad Jadallah of Addameer.

“Israel wants to show it has the authority and the military power to decide whether reconciliation happens,” the activist told Al-Akhbar.

Addameer has recorded the arrests of at least 40 Palestinians in the past 48 hours.

As of January 1, Israel held 4,743 Palestinians in its prisons, including 12 Palestinian MPs and 178 held without charge, according to Addameer’s latest figures.

Citing security sources, AFP reported that Israel plans to step up arrests of “suspected militants” in the West Bank.

Extensive use of administrative detention is illegal according to international law, but is commonly practiced by Israel against Palestinians.

(Al-Akhbar)

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