Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank
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Senior Hamas leader among dozens arrested overnight in West Bank

Sheik Hassan Yousef detained on suspicion of 'promoting' the terror group's activities amid spike in violence, Shin Bet says

Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)
Sheikh Hassan Yousef is arrested in his home by IDF troops, October 20, 2015. (Screen capture from YouTube)

Israeli troops, in raids across the West Bank overnight Tuesday, arrested 32 Palestinians for suspected involvement in terror activities and violent rioting, as well as a senior Hamas figure, security forces said.

Sheikh Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank and one of the group’s founding members, was arrested in Ramallah, the Shin Bet security service said.

He is suspected of “involvement in promoting and advancing Hamas’s activities in the West Bank,” it confirmed in a statement after Palestinian media broke news of the arrest.

Yousef was recently released from administrative detention, and has been arrested many times in recent years. Earlier this week, he called for a violent response to US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

A Palestinian protester pulls a burning tire during clashes with Israeli security forces near an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 9, 2017, following the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

Since Trump announced his decision last Wednesday, the West Bank has seen daily protests that have at time devolved into clashes.

Hamas last week called for a new intifada, or uprising, against Israel over the US decision, urging Palestinians to confront soldiers and settlers, and allowing thousands of Gazans to clash with Israeli troops at the Gaza border fence. Its leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, on Friday praised the “blessed intifada,” urged the liberation of Jerusalem, and made plain the group was seeking to intensify violence against Israel.

In his address, Trump defied worldwide warnings and insisted that after repeated failures to achieve peace a new approach was long overdue, describing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as the seat of Israel’s government as merely based on reality.

Trump stressed that he was not specifying the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in the city, and called for no change in the status quo at the city’s holy sites. The final status of Jerusalem is a key issue in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who claim the eastern neighborhoods of the city as their future capital.

The move was hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and by leaders across much of the Israeli political spectrum, but rejected by the international community.

Police find a rocket, fired from Gaza, inside a kindergarten in the southern Israeli town of Sderot on December 9, 2017. (Israel Police)

Alongside the clashes in the West Bank, recent days have seen an escalation in violence around Gaza, where Yousef’s Hamas group holds sway.

In the latest in a series of tit-for-tat exchanges, the Israeli Air Force early Wednesday morning struck a Hamas facility in the southern Gaza Strip in retaliation for Palestinian rocket fire hours earlier.

On Sunday, Israel demolished a Hamas attack tunnel that penetrated hundreds of meters into Israeli territory from the southern Gaza Strip. It was the second tunnel destroyed by Israel in less than six weeks.

During the overnight raids, IDF medics treated an elderly Palestinian woman who had a heart attack in the village of al-Zubeidat, near Jericho, but eventually pronounced her dead after their efforts failed.

The IDF denied implications made by Palestinian media that the woman’s heart attack was triggered by stun grenades thrown by Israeli troops after residents threw rocks at them. An army official said the two incidents were unrelated, happening at significantly different times during the night.

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