ISRAEL SEIZES HAMAS LEADERS – as Palestinians discuss a Unity Government

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Marchers in London on January 3 express their support for the Palestinian resistance in Gaza during Israel’s bombing campaign
Marchers in London on January 3 express their support for the Palestinian resistance in Gaza during Israel’s bombing campaign

ISRAELI forces seized Hamas leaders across the West Bank early on Thursday in an apparent attempt to pressure the group in the negotiations over the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

High-ranking Hamas leaders have reported that Israeli forces stormed the houses of Hamas leaders in Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron and Bethlehem.

The detainees were identified as:

• Deputy prime minister Nasser Al-Sha’er;

• Hamas political leader Adnan Asfour;

• Professor Issam Al-Shqar – all from Nablus;

• Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member Ayman Daraghmeh;

• Head of the deputies’ office Mazen Ar-Rimawi – both from Ramallah;

• PLC member Azzam Salhab from Hebron;

• PLC member Nizar Ramadan also from Hebron;

• Khaled Tafesh from Bethlehem;

• Ra’fat Nassif from Tulkarem.

The wife of Nasser Al-Sha’er reported that Israeli forces stormed their house in the Nablus area at 2.00am and stayed there until 3.15am.

After making several phone calls, the soldiers detained Al-Sha’er and left, she said.

The Israeli military said that it detained ten senior Hamas leaders in the West Bank in a joint operation between the military and the intelligence services.

At the same time, Israeli forces were shelling the central Gaza Strip early on Thursday morning after killing two Palestinian fighters. According to the spokesperson of the Al-Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, two members of the group were killed east of the city of Deir Al-Balah during a ‘special mission.’

He said ambulance crews were not yet able to reach the bodies of the two.

While the Israeli raids and attacks were taking place, a Hamas spokesperson reported that the Palestinian factions have agreed on the terms for establishing a national unity government.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum added that the government will be formed after elections, though the date has not been finally set.

In a statement, Barhoum said that ‘there is an agreement regarding the nature of the next government,’ and that it will be one of national unity, and will be temporary until the next Palestinian elections.

He said Palestinian officials in Cairo are ‘studying the issue of its political composition and the ministerial issues.’

Barhoum added that the Higher Coordinating Committees continued discussions and meetings on Wednesday in Cairo ‘with all seriousness and interest in all cases brought by the five committees regarding the Palestinian issue.’

He pointed out that they had considered a number of obstacles and unresolved issues related to the government, security and elections issues in order to complete the discussions and solve the issues.

Speaking about the security file, Barhoum said, ‘This issue is still under discussion by the Higher Coordinating Committee in order to collect views from everyone.’

On elections laws, Barhoum stressed that there are different views regarding the system, as Hamas wants to provide the opportunity for all Palestinians to participate in the elections.

On Wednesday, a member at the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)’s political bureau said that the Palestinian factions had set up a special committee to discuss a possible final document.

Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions which are meeting in Cairo have high hopes of restoring the unity of the Palestinian Authority, which split apart in the summer of 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.

According to the PFLP’s Dr Maher Al-Taher, a number of unresolved issues that are still outstanding will definitely be taken care of by the Higher Committee.

Among these outstanding issues are the adoption of a fully proportional elections law and the makeup of a temporary national leadership and government programme.

The committee is currently meeting in an attempt to overcome obstacles to reach a full agreement.

Dr Al-Taher that every faction but Hamas had agreed to adopt the proportional representation proposal.

He added that it is expected that Egyptian Security Chief Omar Suleiman will meet with the Palestinian factions to discuss the latest developments and solve any other obstacles.

Al-Taher also said that the Palestinian factions are serious about reaching a national agreement and ending the divisions plaguing Palestine.

l Palestinian detainee Hamdi Ibrahim Az-Zarba’s family appealed on Wednesday to human rights organisations over the condition of their son’s health, demanding his immediate release from an Israeli prison.

Zarba apparently suffers from a number of medical conditions, for which he requires extensive treatment.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Popular Committees appealed for the ‘rescue’ of Hamdi ‘before it is too late,’ noting that he is seriously ill and needs treatment.

The committees clarified that the 24-year-old detainee in the Israeli Jalboua prison suffers from ‘unbearable pain in the vertebra,’ which causes him to faint and lose weight.

The group also claimed that the Israeli authorities consistently refuse to provide him with any treatment and ‘refuse to send him to hospital,’ adding that his case is becoming worse.

The committees called for his release in order that he receive treatment, adding that the detainee has served three years of his seven-year sentence.