Israel arrests senior Hamas operative in West Bank raid
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Israel arrests senior Hamas operative in West Bank raid

Detention of Rafat Nasif, who has spent decades in and out of prison, linked to secretive elections underway for group’s West Bank leadership

Illustrative: IDF soldiers during an arrest raid in the central West Bank on February 23, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
Illustrative: IDF soldiers during an arrest raid in the central West Bank on February 23, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli forces arrested a senior Hamas operative in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem late Sunday, one month after he was released from an Israeli jail.

Rafat Nasif was one of 14 people arrested in overnight raids across the West Bank, according to an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson. Most were suspected of involvement in rock-throwing or organizing violent demonstrations.

Nasif, a member of the Hamas politburo, was arrested in May 2016 and released just a month ago, according to reports.

The Palestinian news agency Ma’an, citing family members, said large numbers of Israeli security personnel entered Nasif’s house overnight, searched the premises, and departed with Nasif in custody.

He was arrested after the Shin Bet security service became aware of increased Hamas-related activity around his home, the agency said Monday morning.

Nasif has spent more than a dozen years total in Israeli jails, according to the Palestine Information Center, and was a “prominent political activist” during the Second Intifada.

According to Israeli intelligence sources, Nasif’s detention is connected to elections Hamas is currently holding in the West Bank in which the organization’s members are choosing the next generation of their top leaders.

The vote is being held in secret in order to prevent Israeli intelligence from learning the results and possibly arresting the terror group’s new leadership.

The arrest, carried out jointly with the Shin Bet and the Israel Police, comes amid skyrocketing tensions between Israel and Hamas following the mysterious assassination in Gaza City of Mazen Faqha, a top official in Hamas’s Gazan hierarchy charged with organizing terror cells and attacks in the West Bank.

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