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JERUSALEM: Israeli police stage fake fight to nab Hamas lawmaker

September 26, 2011 | 10:26 am


REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM -– Israeli undercover police on Monday took a Hamas lawmaker into custody after tricking him into leaving a Red Cross office in East Jerusalem where he had been holed up since last summer.

Ahmad Attoun, elected for the Jerusalem seat in the Palestinian Legislative Council on a Hamas ticket in 2006, took refuge at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facility in July 2010, along with another elected Hamas lawmaker and a former Hamas Cabinet minister, after Israel decided to expel them from Jerusalem to the West Bank.

Witnesses said police officers disguised as Palestinians faked a brawl outside the Red Cross office that involved a woman wearing the traditional Muslim veil on her head. Attoun, who was with his wife and daughter in the building, stepped outside to see what was happening.

Undercover police standing by the entrance grabbed Attoun, put him into a waiting car and sped away. The two other Hamas officials remained inside the building.

Officials with both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas condemned the arrest, though their organizations are bitter rivals.

Nabil abu Rudaineh, spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a statement from the West Bank city of Ramallah that the arrest of Attoun “was part of an Israeli policy to empty Jerusalem of its Palestinian residents and replace them with Jewish settlers.”

Hamas, in a statement from its Gaza Strip stronghold, described the incident as “a blatant violation of the ICRC as an international humanitarian organization” and “a violation of the immunity given to elected legislators.”

Israel revoked the right of Attoun and his colleagues to live in East Jerusalem, which it had annexed since its occupation in June 1967, after they were elected to the Palestinian parliament. The Israelis asserted that the Hamas officials had changed their loyalty to a foreign country and therefore had no right to live in a city under Israeli sovereignty.

So far this ruling has affected only elected Hamas officials and not Palestinian lawmakers in East Jerusalem who do not belong to the militant organization.


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-- Maher Abukhater

Photo: Members of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian legislative council in the Gaza Strip meet in Gaza City this month. Credit: Mahmud Hams / AFP/Getty Images