Israeli occupation forces abducted a third of the Palestinian government, twenty four lawmakers and scores of municipal officials in overnight raids across the occupied West Bank, drawing immediate condemnation.
Finance Minister Omar Abdel-Razeq and four other ministers were abducted by occupation forces in a night-time raid on a Ramallah hotel, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
The troops raided the hotel, in which many of the ministers operating from the West Bank live, stormed the rooms of five ministers and took them blindfolded and handcuffed to a yet unknown location.
Along with Abdel-Razeq, the others were Planning Minister Samir Abu Eisheh, Local Government Minister Issa al-Jaabari, Prisoner Affairs Minister Wasfi Kabha and Social Affairs Minister Fakhri al-Turkmani.
The ministers were living in the hotel due to Israeli restrictions on their movement throughout the West Bank.
Deputy Prime Minister Nasseredine al-Shaer, who is normally based in the West Bank, was not in the building at the time of the Israeli raid.
Al-Quds Affairs Minister Khaled Abu Arafeh was abducted by the Israeli forces in the occupied holy city.
Employment Minister Mohammed Barghuthi was abducted at a checkpoint near Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority.
Religious Affairs Minister Nayef Rajub was snatched from his home in the West Bank city of Al-Khalil (Hebron).
Israel threatened on Monday, June 26, to topple the Palestinian government unless a soldier taken prisoner during a resistance attack a day earlier is released alive.
The threat was made by Yuval Diskin, the head of Israel's Shin Beth domestic security agency, to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday, June 25, Israeli sources said.
The Palestinian government has denied any link to the operation and called on those holding the soldier to treat him well.
Israeli occupation forces did not only hunt down Palestinian ministers but also lawmakers and municipal officials.
At least twenty four MPs of Hamas parliamentary bloc were also abducted, mostly during raids on their homes.
The ruling Hamas has 74 lawmakers in the Palestinian legislature, 48 of whom are based in the West Bank and 26 in the Gaza Strip.
Scores of mayors and local officials were also abducted by Israeli occupation forces.
Israel said a total of 64 Palestinian officials were taken into custody in the West Bank operations.
An Israeli official dismissed accusations that the Palestinian officials were abducted to be used as bargaining chips for the Israeli soldier held by resistance factions.
Israeli troops launched a massive offensive against Gaza on Wednesday, June 28, destroying the strip's only power plant and a number of key bridges.
Israeli tanks and troops rolled into the northern Gaza Strip early Thursday, stepping up its offensive against the Palestinians. (Reuters)
The abductions of Palestinian ministers and legislators drew rebuke from heavyweight France.
"We condemn of course all the arrests of political personnel," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in Moscow, where he was attending a meeting of foreign ministers of the G8.
President Abbas also blasted the Israeli abductions, calling on the international community to intervene immediately.
"The president strongly condemns the Israeli aggression, raids, siege and arrests of ministers and MPs," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.
"The president calls on the international community and the quartet to intervene immediately to reinstate democracy," he added, referring to the four sponsors of the stalled Middle East peace process.
Palestinian Deputy Parliament Speaker Ahmed Bahar accused Israel of seeking to destroy the Palestinian government.
"The abductions represent an open war against the government, the people and Palestinian legitimacy which aims to destroy the government," he said.
"We condemn the abductions and hold the Israeli government responsible for the consequences of this dangerous aggression," he said.
The senior lawmaker called on the international community to intervene to stop the Israeli aggressions.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned of a "total collapse" in the situation in the occupied territories.
"We call upon the international community to help us to obtain the immediate release of the MPs and ministers," he told AFP.
"I made contacts with the EU and United States and we warned against considering these ministers and MPs as hostages who are being used to obtain the release of the soldier because such a thing would lead to a total collapse."
Meanwhile in the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and troops rolled a short distance into the northern Strip under the cover of darkness, witnesses and a Palestinian security source said.
"Around 35 tanks entered about 600 meters (yards) inside the Gaza Strip, east of Jabaliya near Beit Hanun," a Palestinian security source told AFP.
The source said the armored vehicles backed by bulldozers had for the moment stopped advancing while aircraft repeatedly flew overhead.
Witnesses reported sporadic artillery fire in the area.
A high-ranking military officer earlier told AFP that Defence Minister Amir Peretz had "given the green light to pursue further operations in the Gaza Strip" without saying whether that was linked to an operation in northern Gaza.
Israeli troops on Wednesday launched two incursions into the southern Gaza Strip, rolling forces through the Kerem Shalom crossing before dawn before a convoy of tanks crossed the Sufa border.
Israeli aircraft also bombarded overnight the Islamic University in Gaza.
Source: IslamonlineLast Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16