[News] Israel arrests Hamas leadership
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jun 29 08:55:02 EDT 2006
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Israel arrests Hamas leadership
Thursday 29 June 2006 1:57 AM GMT
Israeli forces have rounded up dozens of Palestinian Cabinet
ministers and lawmakers from Hamas, increasing pressure on militants
to release a captured Israeli soldier.
Witnesses said on Thursday that tanks moved into northern Gaza,
widening Israel's largest military operation in the year since it
pulled out of the seaside territory.
Adding to the tension, a Palestinian militant group claimed on
Thursday that it had killed an 18-year-old Jewish settler kidnapped
in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials said they believed
the body of Eliahu Asheri had been found in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.
Hamas officials said more than 30 lawmakers have been arrested in the
Palestinian security officials said Israeli forces detained Nasser
Shaer, the Palestinian deputy prime minister, and three other Cabinet
ministers, as well as four lawmakers in Ram Allah. Several others
were arrested in the town of Jenin, they said.
Israeli media reported a roundup of Hamas lawmakers in Jerusalem and
other locations. Also, the Hamas mayor of the West Bank town of
Qalqiliya and his deputy were detained, security officials said.
The Israeli military refused to comment. Israel blames Hamas for the
Sunday attack in which two soldiers were killed and a third captured
when militants tunnelled under the border and attacked an army post,
setting off the invasion.
According to the witnesses, before daybreak on Thursday, Israeli
tanks and bulldozers moved into northern Gaza, stopping about 200m
inside Palestinian territory across from the Jabaliya refugee camp.
No clashes were reported. But the military denied its forces had
moved into northern Gaza.
Despite the size of the Israeli operation, with large troop
movements, artillery barrages and many air strikes over two days, no
one was hurt.
Israel held the Palestinian government, headed by Hamas, responsible
for the fate of the soldier. It also blamed the Hamas leadership in
exile in Syria.
An Israeli Cabinet minister said Khalid Mishaal, the Syria-based
Hamas leader, was a target for assassination. In a bold warning to
the country that shelters him, Israeli warplanes buzzed the seaside
home of Bashar Assad, the Syrian president, in the port of Latakia.
Syria confirmed that Israeli warplanes entered its airspace, but said
its air defences forced the Israeli aircraft to flee.
Israel's concern goes beyond the rescue of the soldier and the
negative precedent abducting soldiers would set. Ehud Olmert's
government is alarmed by the firing of homemade rockets at Israeli
communities around Gaza and support for Hamas in the Arab world,
especially from Syria.
Earlier, witnesses reported heavy shelling around Gaza's long-closed
airport, and Israeli missiles hit two empty Hamas training camps, a
rocket-building factory and several roads.
Palestinians filled up on basic supplies after warplanes knocked out
electricity, raising the possibility of a humanitarian crisis. The
Hamas-led government's information ministry warned of "epidemics and
health disasters" because of damaged water pipes to central Gaza and
the lack of power to pump water.
In Rafah, Nivine Abu Shbeke, a 23-year-old mother of three, hoarded
bags of flour, boxes of vegetables and other supplies.
"We're worried about how long the food will last," she said. "The
children devour everything."
Dozens of Palestinian militants - armed with automatic weapons and
grenades - took up positions, bracing for attack.
Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, threatened harsher action to free
the soldier, though he said there was no plan to re-occupy Gaza.
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, deplored the incursion as
a "crime against humanity".
Abbas and Egyptian dignitaries tried to persuade Assad to use his
influence with Mishaal to free the soldier, Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Assad agreed, but without results, said a senior Abbas aide. Israel
refused to negotiate with the militants and rejected their demand -
freeing Palestinian prisoners - outright.
The US pressure
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) in Gaza said they had killed
Asheri, kidnapped in the West Bank. Palestinian security officials
said the body had been found, and Israeli security sources said the
youth had apparently been killed. The PRCs had said it would execute
the hostage if Israel did not halt its invasion of Gaza.
Also, militants said they kidnapped another Israeli, and police said
they had a missing person report about a 62-year-old Israeli from the
central Israeli city of Rishon Lezion.
Meanwhile, the European Union on Wednesday urged both Israel and the
Palestinians to "step back from the brink" and, echoing a statement
from Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, to give diplomacy a chance.
The White House kept up its pressure on Hamas, saying the Palestinian
government must "stop all acts of violence and terror". But the US
also urged Israel to show restraint.
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, urged restraint in a phone call
to Olmert, saying he had spoken to Assad and Abbas and asked them to
do everything possible to release the soldier. Amr Mussa, the Arab
League secretary-general, called on the US to assume its role as
"honest broker" and to make the Palestinian-Israeli conflict its top
priority in the Middle East.
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Israel denies tactical role of arrests
Thursday 29 June 2006 9:55 AM GM
The Israeli army has denied it arrested Palestinian government
ministers in an attempt to pressure the Palestinian Resistance
Committees group into releasing an Israeli soldier kidnapped by them on Sunday.
Mark Regev, the Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said the arrests
were "due to the fact that Hamas over the last few weeks has
escalated terror attacks against Israel".
Jacob Dalal, an army spokesman, said: "They are not being used as
bargaining chips. These are people with terrorist records, with
allegations and charges pending against them."
An army spokeswoman said the ministers would be investigated, brought
before a judge, their detention extended and charge sheets prepared.
During raids in Ram Allah and Jerusalem early on Thursday, at least
eight Hamas cabinet ministers were detained.
Israeli troops detained five of the ministers at the same Ram Allah
hotel, Aljazeera reported.
Some were led away blindfolded and in handcuffs, Palestinian security
Palestinian officials said Umar Abd al-Raziq, the Palestinian finance
minister, and at least seven other cabinet members, along with nearly
20 Hamas legislators in operations across the West Bank were detained.
Israel said 64 Hamas officials in all were taken into custody during
the West Bank operation.
In a sign of worsening relations between Israelis and Palestinians, a
planned summit between Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, and
Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has been cancelled.
Abbas condemned the arrests of the Hamas politicians and called on
Western powers to intervene to "restore democracy".
The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) group, which claimed
responsibility for the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit during a
raid on an Israeli army post, said: "Olmert and [defence minister]
Amir Peretz will be entirely responsible for the life of the
kidnapped soldier if the aggression continues."
Palestinians lined up at public water fountains to fill up jugs after
a second night of power cuts, under Israeli military pressure that
has sparked fears of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
"When the Israelis come, maybe we'll be stuck in our homes for God
knows how long," says Isra Abu Anza, a 16-year-old girl standing in a
queue at one of the fountains.
"We need to drink, to wash, to bathe."
An Israeli missile destroyed a crucial power station late on Tuesday.
In Rafah, which relied on the destroyed power plant for half of its
daily energy needs, residents are now left without power for much of the day.
The Israeli military continued to prepare for a ground assault on
parts of Gaza.
In preparation for the offensive, Israel dropped leaflets on northern
Gaza urging residents to avoid areas troops may single out for attack.
Israeli aircraft fired missiles at the southern Gaza Strip on
Thursday, with the military saying it aimed at open areas, and
Palestinian medical officials saying a car was hit.
Aljazeera + Agencies
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