Israel detains Palestinian parliament secretary

news3_21.jpgSoldiers open fire at taxi, kill 1, injure 3 outside Nablus

RAMALLAH — One Palestinian was killed and three others were wounded near an Israeli military checkpoint outside Nablus early Sunday when Israeli soldiers opened fire at a taxi.

The dead man, identified as Jalal Oudeh, 22, and the other casualties were all in the taxi that reportedly tried to get around the Huwarra checkpoint. Israeli closures in the West Bank make it extremely difficult for Palestinians to travel from town to town. With a dire economic situation, many Palestinians seek either work in Israel or in Ramallah, where the bulk of Palestinian financial activity, such as it is, takes place.

Most Palestinians, however, are not allowed to travel from their cities of origin and must seek alternative routes to avoid checkpoints if they do not receive specific army permission, usually only given in medical cases.

The killing comes on a day when Israel continued its arrests of Hamas and other Palestinian political activists. Yesterday, Israeli troops took the secretary of the Palestinian parliament, Mahmoud Al Ramhi, from his home in Al Bireh, near Ramallah.

Ramhi, the fourth-ranking official in the Palestinian legislature, is the latest in a string of top Hamas officials, including eight ministers, detained by Israel following the June 25 cross-border raid in the Gaza Strip in which two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third captured.

Hamas’ armed wing was among the three groups to have claimed responsibility for the raid.

Saturday, Israeli troops captured Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nassereddin Shaer. Earlier Sunday, another seven Palestinians, including three female members of Islamic Jihad, were rounded up across the West Bank, the Israeli army said.

In Gaza, meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian security officials stormed banks and burned tyres, demanding that banks return money deducted from a meagre cash advance they received after months of going without wages.

About 80 security officers, many of them armed with assault rifles, stormed up the stairs of the Arab Bank in Gaza City, parking themselves in front of the manager’s office and refusing to leave until they spoke to him.

Suffering the impact of crippling international sanctions, the ruling Hamas Party has been unable to pay 165,000 government workers since taking office in March. Israel, the United States and other Western countries have said they will not lift the sanctions until Hamas recognises Israel’s right to exist and ends the armed resistance, something it has so far refused to do.

Since March, employees have received only partial salaries in drips and drabs, forcing them to take bank loans and buy food on credit. On Saturday, the workers discovered the banks had deducted some of the advance to cover the loans.

But while the boycott has hit Palestinian pockets hard, it has not noticeably dented the popularity of Hamas, and yesterday Israel’s internal security service said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh movement could disappear from the Gaza Strip.

“Fateh is in an extremely difficult situation,” a senior government official quoted Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin as saying during the weekly Cabinet meeting. “It has never been at such a low point.”

“If nothing positive happens soon, the chances are high that within a matter of months Fateh could disintegrate and disappear from the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Fateh was routed by Hamas in January parliamentary elections and since then supporters from the two factions have periodically entered into deadly internecine clashes in the Gaza strip. Hamas enjoys widespread popularity in the impoverished and densely populated strip because of its social programmes and its continued armed resistance to the Israeli occupation.

“If we do not counter the strengthening of Hamas and the Iranian influence in the Gaza Strip, we will be facing a strategic threat within three to five years and a Lebanon-like reality in the Gaza Strip,” Diskin warned the Israeli Cabinet according to AFP.

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