Israel nabs Hamas cell accused of deadly shooting
JERUSALEM, (AP) – Israel has arrested five Palestinians accused of being members of a Hamas cell responsible for killing an Israeli policeman in the West Bank, the Shin Bet security service said Monday.
It said the men, all in their 20s, confessed to killing the policeman near the West Bank town of Hebron on June 14 and handed over three Kalashnikov rifles they used. The arrests were carried out a week after the attack, which wounded two other policemen, but were only made public Monday in a statement released to the media.
The names of the arrested men were not released, and it was not possible to confirm the details with their families or lawyers. Hamas Web sites mentioned the arrests but did not explicitly link the group to the attack Monday.
The men were from the southern West Bank village of Deir Samit, which is under full Israeli security control, according to Palestinian security officials. The officials said the Israelis arrested around 20 men and they did not know which of them had confessed to shooting the police officer.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because the Palestinian Authority had not officially commented.
Violence has diminished in the West Bank in recent years, thanks in part to increased security cooperation between Israelis and forces loyal to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which has limited power in the territory under Israel’s overall security control. The Palestinian Authority, controlled by the secular Fatah movement, has launched its own crackdown against Hamas, driving the Islamic group underground in the West Bank.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, and has cracked down on Fatah members there. On Monday, Gaza’s Hamas rulers banned top Fatah officials from leaving the territory for a meeting in the West Bank, according to Amal Hamad, a Fatah member from Gaza.
Also Monday, Israeli forces demolished a cluster of tents and shacks belonging to Palestinians in the northern West Bank, according to the Israeli military and footage from AP Television News. Israeli house demolitions have angered Palestinians, who say they are forced to build without permits because of discriminatory planning rules, and have drawn criticism from the international community.
One of the Palestinians, Ziad Adnan Saeh, said Israeli soldiers arrived early Monday and ordered him and others away before knocking the structures down. “They didn’t leave anything of our belongings. They were threatening to shoot us if we come close, so all of us left and now look what happened,” he said.
The Israeli military’s Civil Administration said the military knocked down nine temporary agricultural structures because they were put up without permits in an army firing zone, endangering the Palestinians working there. The Palestinians were given three weeks to contest the demolition orders in court but did not do so, the Civil Administration said in a statement.