Israel Arrests Top Hamas Legislator

Israeli troops have arrested Mahmoud Ramahi, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Hamas sources have said.

The troops stormed the Hamas legislator’s home in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Mona Mansour, another Hamas legislator, said Ramahi had called her as the troops entered his house to tell her that he was being arrested.

"Then the phone call disconnected and no one knows where he was taken to," she said.

The Israeli army said Ramahi was one of twelve West Bank Palestinians taken into custody overnight.

The developments come as representatives from Hamas and the Fatah party started a meeting in Damascus on Tuesday night for reconciliation talks.

The political rivals have been fiercely divided since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007, limiting Fatah’s authority to the West Bank.

Several previous attempts to reconcile the groups have failed.

Omar Abdul Razek, a senior Hamas official in the West Bank, told the AFP news agency that Ramahi’s arrest appeared to be an attempt by Israel to undermine the reconciliation talks.

"There is no justification for Ramahi’s arrest unless Israel’s aim is to sabotage the reconciliation process," Abdul Razek said.

Three weeks ago, Hatem Qafaish, another Hamas legislator, was detained in the southern West Bank city of Hebron for what the Israeli army termed "security questioning".

Israeli forces last arrested Ramahi in 2006 in a roundup of dozens of Hamas officials, after members of Hamas seized the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
(Al Jazeera and Agencies)

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