ISRAEL DETAINS PALESTINIAN MPs

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Israeli forces on Monday detained two Palestinian MPs during a raid on the Jerusalem headquarters of the International Red Cross.

Mohammad Tawtah and former Jerusalem affairs minister Khalid Abu Arafa are being questioned by Israeli police on suspicion of conducting ‘Hamas activities inside Jerusalem,’ Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Israeli forces took both officials to an unknown location, with relatives expressing fears that they would be banished from Jerusalem similar to their colleagues Mohammed Abu Tir and Mohammed Attoun.

Israeli intelligence had warned Tawtah and Abu Arafa in a telephone call two weeks ago that they should leave the Red Cross premises and occupied Jerusalem within 48 hours.

The elected officials took refuge at the Red Cross building in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah in June 2010 along with lawmaker Ahmad Attoun after Israel revoked their residency permits.

Attoun was detained at the ICRC office in September by paramilitary police disguised as Palestinians, a security guard at the building said.

The Red Cross condemned Attoun’s detention and urged Israel ‘to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.’

At the ICRC compound on Monday, a crowd of Palestinians smashed its gate to protest against what they saw as the failure of the organisation to protect Tawtah and Abu Arafa.

Hamas said the two men were legislators and should enjoy immunity from arrest.

‘Everything happened very fast and we do not have more details,’ said Red Cross spokeswoman Nadia Dibsy.

The ICRC has said it told Israeli authorities that international humanitarian law prohibited the forcible transfer of Paleistinian residents from their homes, for whatever reason.

The organisation also said it had informed Hamas members in its compound that ICRC premises had no special status and it could not prevent police entering to arrest them.

The arrests of Tawtah and Abu Arafa came days after Israeli forces detained two MPs in the West Bank, the speaker of the Paleistinian parliament Aziz Dweik and MP Mohammed Tafesh, bringing the number of lawmakers in Israeli detention to 27.

On Monday, lawmakers protested against Dweik’s arrest in Ramallah and urged international governments to intervene.

‘The speaker of the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC), Dr Aziz Dweik, has been kidnapped for the second time, in a terrorist way, by these gangs that are controlling this occupied country,’ PLC member Ahmad Mubarak said.

Dweik faced an Israeli military court on Sunday but the trial was postponed.

Dweik told reporters in Ofer military court that he was arrested ‘because we decided re-open the legislative council meetings sessions. They do not want me to open the session of the council meeting.’

All four lawmakers detained in the last week are affiliated to Hamas, and the movement accused Israel of trying to thwart the party’s reconciliation with Fatah.

Hamas MP Mona Mansour in Nablus described the arrest of Dr Dweik as a ‘crime’, alleging that his detention was meant to obstruct the national reconciliation process.

She said on Sunday that the step would not terrorise the Paleistinian MPs or dissuade them from serving their people or assuming their responsibilities.

Mansour asked Palestine Authority (PA) chief Mahmud Abbas to halt negotiations with Israel and to call for an immediate PLC session in response to the arrest of Dr Dweik.

Meanwhile, and in solidarity, the Greek Orthodox Archimandrite Attalla Hanna visited the office of the PLC speaker in Al-Khalil where he was received by a number of MPs.

Hanna strongly condemned the Israeli arrest of Dr Dweik, adding that the PLC speaker is a patriotic figure who is respected by all.

The arrest is a blow to all Palestinians and not to a certain faction especially when Dr Dweik is the speaker of a democratically elected parliament, he said, praising Dr Dweik and his sacrifices for the Palestine cause.

The Paleistinian parliament has been inactive since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary elections.

The parties signed a reconciliation agreement in May 2011 but it has yet to be implemented.

Israeli forces detained nine Paleistinian citizens in various West Bank areas at dawn on Monday.

The website of Israeli daily paper Yediot Ahronot quoted army sources as saying that the Palestinians were ‘wanted’.

Dozens of Israeli soldiers had stormed the house of a Paleistinian in Bir Al-Basha village, to the west of Jenin, on Sunday on the pretext that its owner, Abdulhakim Gawadra, had tried to attack Israeli soldiers at the Qalandiyah crossing, north of Ramallah, earlier on Sunday.

Local sources said that an intelligence officer accompanied the soldiers, adding that they took photos inside the house, threatened his family, and questioned his brothers.

The soldiers also broke into many homes in the village and searched them, the sources said, noting that Gawadra was mysteriously injured at the Qalandiyah crossing and that his family said that he had disappeared a few months ago and that he was mentally unstable.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops attacked a soccer stadium in Kufl Hares village, north of Salfit, and attacked the players.

Locals said that Israeli soldiers in five armoured vehicles stormed the stadium and fired tear gas and stun grenades at the players, who were competing in a local championship, before beating them.

In another incident on Sunday, Israeli soldiers attacked a land defence centre in Tal Al-Rumaida in Al-Khalil and beat up volunteers working in it.

The soldiers detained the centre’s coordinator and threatened to kill him if he ever ventured into the centre again.

Issa Amr said after his release that the soldiers took him handcuffed and blindfolded to a nearby army base where he was beaten and threatened with liquidation.

He said that Jewish settlers spat at him and tried to beat him.

He said that the Israali soldiers’ and settlers’ practices would not deter him from performing his role in defence of Paleistinian land and in resisting occupation.

Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) has notified farmers in Jurish village, south of Nablus, that their land would be confiscated within 45 days and that they should evacuate it.

Ghassan Daghlas, monitoring settlement activity north of the West Bank, said that a family owning 20 dunums of cultivated land was served a notice to that effect, while a group of other citizens were told that water wells they use to irrigate their land in the same village would be destroyed.

He noted that the Israeli occupation authorities were escalating their targeting of Paleistinian land in the West Bank area ‘C’, which is under full Israeli control according to the Oslo accords.

He noted that the area ‘C’ constitutes 60 per cent of the West Bank and Palestinians living in it constitute five per cent of the population, while the rest are Jewish settlers.

Daghlas charged the Israeli forces with exchanging roles with the Jewish settlers in terrorising the indigenous inhabitants into deserting their land to facilitate annexing them to Jewish settlements.