Sunday, August 21, 2011

Israeli forces detain 120 Palestinians in West Bank

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces detained 120 Palestinians, mostly Hamas supporters, overnight Saturday in the southern West Bank, witnesses and officials said.

More than 100 military jeeps stormed Hebron from three directions and deployed in several neighborhoods in the largest detention campaign in the city since 2003, locals and Palestinian security officials told Ma'an.

Hamas lawmaker Muhammad Mutliq Abu Juheisha was among more than 120 Palestinians detained across the district as soldiers raided the surrounding towns of Dura, Surif, Beit Ula, Nuba, Yatta and As-Samu.

"Between 100 and 120 people have been arrested," Samira Halaika, a Hamas MP from Hebron told AFP. "In terms of size, there has never been such an arrest operation on this scale in the Hebron area before."

Mushir al-Masri, another Hamas MP who lives in Gaza, said initial information showed at least 80 of the group's members had been arrested in a move which he said demonstrated Israel's "criminal mentality" towards the Palestinians.

"All attempts by the occupation to hit at Hamas are doomed to fail; experience has shown that it only makes Hamas stronger," he said.

Palestinian security sources said troops fanned out across the southern West Bank in an overnight operation which kicked off just hours after Hamas's armed wing in Gaza fired rockets into southern Israel, breaking a truce brokered in April.

The Al-Qassam Brigades said they fired four Grad rockets at the Israeli town of Ofakim near the Gaza Strip, lightly wounding two children, in what was the first such attack claimed by the group in months and came in the context of rising tensions in and around the enclave.

The Israeli operation met with resistance, with youngsters hurling stones at troops in Dura and troops retaliating with rubber bullets, moderately injuring one youngster, medics said.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment on the reported arrests, which came as tensions soared along the Israel-Gaza border, with the air force launching multiple air strikes against militants who hit back with rocket attacks.

The violence was sparked after a bloody series of shooting attacks on Thursday near the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, which killed eight Israelis.

Israel blamed the Gaza-based Popular Resistance Committees for the attack, although the faction has denied any involvement.

Since then, 14 Gazans have been killed and over 40 injured, with rocket attacks killing one Israeli and injuring dozens.