Israeli forces detain Hamas lawmaker, businessmen

Mon Jul 21, 2008 3:18am EDT
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NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Israeli forces detained a Hamas woman lawmaker on Monday along with 14 managers of a West Bank business venture that Israel accuses of having links to the Islamist faction, Palestinian officials said.

The detentions in Nablus looked likely to stoke tensions between Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is trying to advance his own law-and-order drive in the city and elsewhere in the West Bank since breaking with Hamas last year.

Mona Mansour, a Hamas deputy in the Palestinian parliament, was among some 20 Nablus residents taken into Israeli custody overnight, relatives and local officials said.

Also detained were 14 members of the board of Beit Almal, a finance company which owns a Nablus mall which Israel ordered to close this month for what it said were links to Hamas fund-raising.

The management had denied the charge and refused to shut the five-storey complex. The closure order was for two years.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said that 18 Palestinians were detained in Nablus "as part of our routine counter-terrorist operations" but had no further details.

Hamas, which rejects peace talks with Israel, routed forces from Abbas's secular Fatah faction to take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Israel has stepped up a campaign against suspected Hamas assets in the occupied West Bank, where Abbas holds sway.

Hamas swept Palestinian legislative elections in 2006, but dozens of its lawmakers and other politicians were rounded up by Israel after Gazan gunmen abducted an Israeli soldier later that year.

(Reporting by Atef Sa'ad, Writing by Dan Williams in Jerusalem, Editing by Elizabeth Piper)