Israeli army arrests five Hamas members

March 28, 2013 - 8:52:16 am

Palestinian students take part in a military-style exercise at the courtyard of a high school in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. The exercise in the 138 Hamas-run high schools in Gaza was part of a programme sanctioned by the Islamist government to teach students how to use guns. 

HEBRON: Israel’s army early yesterday arrested five members of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, including a member of parliament, a prisoners’ support group said.

The five were arrested at dawn at their homes in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, the Ramallah-based Prisoners’ Club said. They included Hamas MP Mohammed Jamal Al Natshe, it said. An Israeli army spokeswoman said “six people were arrested and taken for security questioning,” but gave no further details.

The army later  released another Hamas MP, Nayef Al Rujub, who had been in prison for two and a half years, the Prisoners’ Club said in a statement. The Israeli army had yet to confirm the release.

Israel has stepped up arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, in the face of a rising tide of low-intensity conflict and civil unrest. There are currently 13 Palestinian lawmakers in Israeli jails, including Natshe. Hamas has 74 members in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council.

Meanwhile The United States yesterday remained cool to a possible visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the Palestinian territories next month, renewing US opposition to engaging Hamas.

Hot on the heels of last week’s breakthrough apology from Israel for the deaths of nine Turks during a 2010 Israeli raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, Erdogan said he planned to travel to the Gaza Strip and West Bank in the coming weeks.

He added the aim would be “to help the process” of lifting an Israeli embargo on the Palestinian territories — an issue raised in talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the state news agency Anatolia.

A top US official said Washington shared global concerns about the plight of the Palestinians, including those living in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.