Israel detains latest Hamas official

The Israeli army on Sunday detained the Hamas secretary of the Palestinian parliament, Mahmud al-Ramhi, upping the pressure on the ruling faction.
Ramhi, the fourth-ranking official in the Palestinian legislature, was detained at his home near the West Bank town of Ramallah, the latest in a string of Hamas officials detained by the Jewish state.
Around 10 Israeli army jeeps surrounded his house, quickly nabbed Ramhi from inside and left within minutes.
Israel has detained dozens of Hamas officials, including ministers, since the June 25 cross-border raid in the Gaza Strip in which Palestinian resistance fighters killed two soldiers and seized a third.
The ruling Hamas’s armed wing was among the three groups to have claimed responsibility for the raid.
Ramhi’s detention comes a day after Israeli troops nabbed deputy Palestinian prime minister and senior Hamas member Nassereddin al-Shaer. Overall, Israel has detained more than five dozen Hamas officials since June 25.
As part of its crackdown against Hamas, which Israel and the United States consider a terrorist organisation, the Jewish state on June 29 detained 64 Hamas officials, including eight ministers and 26 lawmakers.
Four of them were released but three more were detained later, including Aziz Dweik, who is the parliament speaker and the Palestinian administration’s second in command.
An Israeli army spokesman said Shaer’s arrest was “part of our fight against the radical Hamas movement,” which refuses to recognise the Jewish state’s right to exist and to renounce violence.
“The Palestinian government condemns the acts of the occupation forces which arrested deputy prime minister and education minister Shaer,” government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said.
“This is the continuation of the criminal campaign waged by the occupation government against the Palestinian government,” he added. “Israel’s goal is the eradication or weakening of any Palestinian government or authority.”
Hamas described the capture of the deputy premier as “political blackmail.”
The latest arrest came as Israel’s internal security service warned that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement — trounced by Hamas in January elections — could disintegrate in the Gaza Strip and lead to a “Lebanon-like reality” there.
“Fatah is in an extremely difficult situation,” a senior government official quoted Shin Beth chief Yuval Diskin as saying during the weekly cabinet meeting. “It has never been at such a low point.
“If nothing positive happens soon, the chances are high that within a matter of months Fatah could disintegrate and disappear from the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Hamas enjoys widespread popularity in the impoverished and densely-populated Gaza Strip because of its social programmes and its fight against Israel, which Palestinians say continues to control the Gaza Strip despite withdrawing from the area last year.
“If we do not counter the strengthening of Hamas and the Iranian influence in the Gaza Strip, we will be facing a strategic threat within three to five years and a Lebanon-like reality in the Gaza Strip,” Diskin warned.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2006