Israeli forces arrested senior Hamas leader Hassan Yousef in an overnight raid, accusing him of inciting terror attacks against Israelis, the army said Tuesday.
The raid against Yousef, one of the top Hamas men in the West Bank, was carried out in the Ramallah suburb of Beitunia by the IDF together with the Shin Bet security service.
The IDF said in statement that Yousef, 60, has been “actively instigating and inciting terrorism and publicly encouraging and praising the execution of attacks against Israelis.”
“Hamas’ leaders cannot expect to propagate violence and terror from the comfort of their living-rooms and pulpits of their mosques,” said IDF spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. “When you encourage, promote and praise the death the innocent the IDF will act swiftly in order to contain the hateful incitement that jeopardizes the safety and well-being of so many Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
The arrest came as Israel has battling a wave of terror attacks and West Bank violence over the last month that has killed nine Israelis and dozens of Palestinians, many of them identified as attackers.
Earlier this month Yousef released a statement urging Palestinians to carry out attacks, according to the Ynet news site. Yousef threatened that the West Bank and Gaza Strip would “burn.”
The report noted that the statement was unusual for Yousef, a former Hamas spokesman who has been trying to keep a low profile.
Yousef, who was a founding member of Hamas in the late 1980s, has spent years in Israeli jails. He was elected to the Palestinian parliament from prison in 2006.
Hamas has always said that Yousef works only for its political wing, not its military wing.
In June, Yousef was released from Ofer prison after being held without trial in administrative detention for a year.
In July, he told The Times of Israel Hamas was open to a long-term calm with Israel, as well as detente with rival group Fatah, which heads the Palestinian Authority.
“We must be patient. That’s our destiny,” he said of Hamas, an extremist group designated by Israel and much of the international community as a terrorist organization, and committed in its charter to Israel’s destruction. “Secondly, we must carry out peaceful actions to oppose all PA measures. We will continue to be in touch with all political parties to pressure the PA to stop attacking Hamas members. In addition, the Hamas leadership abroad is in touch with influential regional forces to pressure the PA in the same direction.”
The Hamas leader was among more than 80 Palestinians arrested last June across the West Bank, including former ministers and other members of parliament, in an effort to find Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel, who were abducted and then killed on June 12, 2015 as they hitchhiked in the West Bank.
The teens’ bodies were later found in a field north of the city.
Yousef is also known as the father of Mosab Hassan Yousef, a Hamas defector who turned against the organization and converted to Christianity, going public about his experiences in a book, and more recently a film, “The Green Prince.”
AFP contributed to this report