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ISRAEL - May 24 - Hamas Leaders Detained.

In a continued crackdown on Hamas, Israeli forces arrest 33 senior leaders of the group in the West Bank. They included the Palestinian education minister, three Parliament members and several mayors. Aside from Education Minister Nasseruddin Al-Shaer, the detainees included former Cabinet Minister Abdulrahman Zeidan, lawmakers Hamed Al-Beitawi and Daoud Abu Seir, and the mayors of Nablus, Qalqilya and Beita - Adli Yaish, Wajih Qawas and Arab Shurafa. Fayad Al-Arbeh, the head of the Islamic Wakf in Nablus, was also detained. The army also shut down 10 Hamas offices in towns throughout the West Bank, including Jenin, Ramallah, Nablus and Bethlehem. Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said the arrests were part of Israel's attempt to neutralise Hamas. "Arrests are better than shooting", he told Israeli Army Radio. "The arrest of these Hamas leaders sends a message to the military organisations that we demand that this firing (of rockets) stop". But Hamas remained defiant. "We will chase the occupation soldiers and the settlers in every inch of our occupied land, and we announce that we give free hand to our cells to strike against the enemy in every place in Palestine", a Hamas term that includes Israel, the group said in a statement. The US voiced concern over the arrests. These detentions "raise particular concerns", State Department spokesman Tom Casey said. "Certainly Hamas is a foreign terrorist organization engaged in terrorist attacks against Israel. But we have previously noted when these kinds of issues came up before, that the detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature does raise particular concerns", Casey said. Palestinian Pres Mahmoud Abbas said the arrests were a blow to peace efforts, and a spokesman for PM Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas demanded an immediate release of the detainees and called on the UN and EU to impose sanctions on Israel. Visiting EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met Abbas in Gaza and called for both sides to halt the violence. "The rockets and the Israeli response have to stop", he told reporters after the meeting. Abbas himself condemned what he called the "absurd" rocket fire and said he was trying to persuade armed groups to stop. "They must stop so we can reach a truce with Israel", he said, adding that the Israeli airstrikes were failing to stop the salvos. Just after the meeting, Israeli forces carried out two more airstrikes, hitting an empty Hamas base in Gaza City and a base in central Gaza, Palestinian security officials said. Four civilians were injured by flying glass and debris in Gaza City, medics said. No one was hurt in the second strike. The Israeli military said it hit Hamas emplacements. Israel has been holding 40 Palestinian lawmakers from Hamas, including Parliament Speaker Abdel Aziz Duaik, rounded up over the past year. Previous arrests of prominent officials were linked to the capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked gunmen in a cross-border raid that killed two other soldiers in June 2006. The idea was to trade the lawmakers for the soldier, but no deal took place. So far, Israel's other tactics against the rocket fire have failed. In the past, even large-scale ground invasions to take over areas from where Palestinian fighters launch rockets, while causing multiple casualties and widespread damage, have not stopped the barrages. Also, Abbas' security forces have been ineffective in halting the rocket salvos and have been unable to make any efforts in that direction. Instead, the rocket attacks have diminished when Palestinian fighters decided to lower the flame.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7PALE
Date:May 26, 2007
Previous Article:ISRAEL - May 24 - Netanyahu Calls For Broadening Of Peace Talks.
Next Article:LEBANON - May 20 - Lebanon Clashes With Islamic Militants.

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