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Israel seizes Hamas leaders, bombs Gaza

Israeli forces seized a Palestinian cabinet minister and 32 other officials in the occupied West Bank and launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip.

world Updated: May 25, 2007 02:03 IST
Atef Sa’ad

Israeli forces seized a Palestinian cabinet minister and 32 other officials in the occupied West Bank and launched air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, stepping up a campaign against Hamas Islamists.

The move prompted renewed threats from Hamas, who said they would continue to attack Israel with rocket fire.

“Our strikes against the enemy will continue, we have freed the hand of all our cells to strike the enemy everywhere in Palestine,” the Hamas armed wing said in a statement.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah demanded Hamas and other groups halt firing at Israeli towns immediately so he could negotiate a wider truce with the Jewish state.

Abbas told a news conference in Gaza the rocket shootings were “pointless and needless, they must be stopped.” He said that faction heads had agreed to study his proposal.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel’s actions showed any ceasefire call by Abbas was “worthless”.

The Islamist group and others said they would consider stopping the rocket firing only if Israel first called off all of its military operations in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel has rebuffed similar demands in the past, arguing its West Bank operations are essential to preventing militant attacks.

The overnight arrests came after Hamas and other groups turned down Abbas’s call for a halt to the rocket firing.