Israeli Troops Round Up Hamas Lawmakers

The Associated Press
Thursday, May 24, 2007; 2:05 AM

NABLUS, West Bank -- Israeli troops in the West Bank arrested more than 30 senior Hamas members early Thursday, the army said, including a Cabinet minister, legislators and mayors. The roundup came hours after Israeli planes struck what the military said were money changing offices and other businesses in Gaza which were channeling funds to Hamas.

The raids were part of a concerted offensive against the Islamic militant group, in retaliation for its rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli border towns.

The most prominent Hamas politician to be arrested was Education Minister Nasser Shaer, considered a pragmatist in the movement. His wife, Huda, said soldiers knocked on the door of their home in the West Bank city of Nablus and took him away. Troops also seized Shaer's computer, she said.

It was the second time Shaer was arrested in a roundup of Hamas members in the past year.

Soldiers also arrested former Cabinet minister Abdel Rahman Zeidan, legislators Hamed Bitawi and Daoud Abu Ser, the mayors of the towns of Nablus, Qalqiliya and Beita _ Adli Yaish, Wajih Qawas and Arab Shurafa _ as well as the head of the main Islamic charity in Nablus, Fayad al-Arba.

Troops also searched for Ahmed Haj Ali, a Hamas legislator in Nablus, but didn't find him at home, neighbors said.

The Israeli military said more than 30 senior Hamas members were arrested.

Israeli aircraft on Wednesday demolished two money exchange shops used to channel funds to Hamas militants, the military said, hours after Palestinian leaders made a new push to restore a truce with Israel that collapsed under heavy Hamas rocket fire.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas met for the first time since fierce Hamas-Fatah fighting broke out two weeks ago, killing more than 50 Palestinians. The two sides reached a truce over the weekend, but tensions stayed high because a key dispute over control of security forces remained unresolved.

In a challenge to that shaky internal truce, gunmen opened fire from a passing car late Wednesday on the Gaza City home of a prominent Fatah official in Gaza who was away at the time, injuring at least two of his bodyguards. The official, Maher Miqdad, blamed Hamas.

Intensified Hamas rocket fire that accompanied the Palestinian infighting touched off a week of Israeli airstrikes that have killed more than 40 Palestinians, most of them militants.

Two air attacks just before midnight targeted money exchange shops in Gaza City that served as a conduit for millions of dollars sent from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to arm and train Hamas fighters, the military said.

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