Hamas cautioned Israel that expelling its leaders from the West Bank would be ineffective at breaking the will of the Palestinian people and would also make Israel subject to heavy “consequences.”
“The scenario of expulsion has always failed in breaking the will and determination of Palestinians,” Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told the Ma’an news agency on Monday.
“Detaining Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, along with other parliamentarians, is stupid and will increase the weight of the coming consequences,” he added.
Overnight Sunday Israeli forces arrested over 40 Hamas operatives in the West Bank, including a senior Palestinian lawmaker, as a search for three missing Israeli teens continued with a crackdown on the Islamist group.
Among the Hamas members rounded up by the IDF overnight was Aziz Dweik, Hamas’s speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who was taken into custody at his home in Hebron, according to Palestinian and Israeli media reports.
One of the founders of Hamas, Hassan Yousef, who was arrested overnight Saturday, was sentenced to six months’ administrative detention for his involvement with the terror organization.
The government is reportedly weighing the option of expelling senior West Bank Hamas leaders to the Gaza Strip.
Officials in the Justice Ministry discussed on Sunday whether such a move would be legal under international law and would hold up against scrutiny in High Court of Justice, a senior Israeli official told the Haaretz daily. Others measures mulled included demolishing the homes of senior Hamas operatives and sanctions against Hamas members currently in Israeli prisons, the paper reported.
Masri also called on the Palestinian leadership to not fragment under the pressure of Israel’s actions and to continue the solidifying of a recently formed unity government that ended seven years of animosity between Hamas and Fatah.
Such reconciliation “is the best answer to the Israeli mentality,” Masri said.
The raids followed a similar sweep the night earlier in which over 80 Palestinians, including a number of senior Hamas officials, were taken into Israeli custody.
Over 150 Palestinian suspects have been arrested in the wake of the kidnapping of the three youths on Thursday night, the IDF said in a statement.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the kidnapping of the three teenagers, Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel. Hamas has denied being behind the disappearance, but praised the abduction.