REPORTING FROM JERUSALEM –- Israeli police on Monday arrested two Hamas officials who had been holed up in the Red Cross office in Jerusalem for the last 18 months.
About two dozen police officers jumped over the back wall of the building and grabbed the two officials without any resistance, authorities said.
The two officials -– Muhammad Totah, a member of the Palestinian Authority parliament, and Khaled abu Arafeh, a former Cabinet minister -– took refuge at the Red Cross building after it became evident that Israel was going to expel them from Jerusalem, their place of residence, to the West Bank.
Claiming they had changed loyalty, Israel had stripped the two officials, and two other Hamas lawmakers, of their right to live in the predominantly Arab section of Jerusalem after they were elected to the Palestinian parliament in 2006. Israel annexed the Arab section after seizing the area during the 1967 Middle East War.
The two other Hamas lawmakers were sent to the West Bank despite a petition to Israel's high court seeking to overturn the Interior Ministry's expulsion order; the two men arrested Monday are expected to face the same fate.
Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization and bans its activities in Jerusalem. It has closed several Hamas-run charitable offices and arrested most of its known members.
On Thursday, the Israelis arrested a top Hamas official in the West Bank, Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian parliament, at an army checkpoint outside Ramallah.
At least 24 Hamas lawmakers are held in Israeli jails.
-- Maher Abukhater
Photo: A Palestinian talks to a Red Cross staffer outside the organization's offices in East Jerusalem on Monday in front of a poster bearing pictures of senior Hamas officials whom Israel has ordered expelled from the city. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli / AFP/Getty Images