Israeli forces have captured 33 leaders of the militant Hamas group and a Palestinian Cabinet minister as of Thursday morning, reports the Associated Press. The seizures are part of a new crackdown against the organization, which utilizes terrorist tactics and huge amounts of propaganda to try to force Israel to give up lands it captured as part of its self-defense during the Six Days War of 1967.
Hamas has said that it will use “any means necessary” to free the captured members, reports Reuters.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for a ceasefire, but his political party, the secular-based Fatah, is derided by Hamas, which says that Abbas is out of touch with reality.
Israel engaged in the overnight capturing of its new prisoners just hours after its airforce bombarded what Israel says are offices that are used to funnel money to Hamas. Hamas has been firing rockets into Israeli territory, and Israel began its military crackdown more than a week ago in response to those rocket attacks. The rockets are inconsistent and inaccurate, but they are an effective terror weapon. Abbas has called the rocket attacks “absurd” and has said, “They must stop so we can reach a truce with Israel,” according to the AP.
Education Minister Nasser Shaer is the most important person captured, according to Israel. He is considered to be a fomenter of Palestinian terrorist tactics and aggression against Israel. Israeli soldiers arrested Shaer at his home in the West Bank town of Nablus, and also seized his computer.
“Arrests are better than shooting. The arrest of these Hamas leaders sends a message to the military organizations that we demand that this firing (of rockets) stop,” Israel’s Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the AP.
“The continued detention of lawmakers and ministers gives Hamas the right to use any means to free them … Harming them will open the gates of hell,” Hamas said in a statement quoted by Reuters. Hamas also wrote, “We will chase the occupation soldiers and the settlers in every inch of our occupied land. And we announce that we give free hand to our cells to strike against the enemy in every place in Palestine.”
“These aggressive practices show the extent of the Israeli escalation and arrogance in the Palestinian territories, and also show how dismissive the Israeli government is of all customs and international laws,” Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad said. Palestinian President Abbas has said that the arrests have harmed peace efforts.
“Israel has always said that if a cease-fire is kept in Gaza we’re willing to extend it to the West Bank. The trouble is that a cease fire in Gaza has never been kept … It has been a sham. The idea of extending a failure is flawed one,” said Mark Regev, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.
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