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US, Israeli officials keep mum on PA intel arrests

Nov. 20, 2009 11:15 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 22, 2009 8:51 P.M.)
Ramallah/Nablus – Ma’an Exclusive – Israeli forces detained six Palestinians from Nablus and Salfit overnight including the commander and four officers of the Palestinian Authority Intelligence Services.

High-level negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials have been ongoing since dawn in an effort to have the men released, with American officials entering the debate shortly after 11am local time, expressing "concern" over the Israeli actions, reportedly approved by Israeli government officials before the raids took place, Palestinian security sources said.

Officials said the "next few hours" will determine whether or not the situation will escalate.

The first detention took place during a raid on Aqraba village south of Nablus at 2am Friday, with Israeli forces breaking into the home of PA Intelligence Services Commander Muhammad Abdul Hameed Bani Fadel, 45. The commander's home was ransacked and he was detained by Israeli troops. He was taken to an unknown destination for questioning.

Israeli forces then went to the homes of four of the PA intelligence officers In the villages of Bruqin, southwest of Salfit and Deir Istiya north of the town, and detained:

First Lieutenant Bader Mahmud Mustafa Sabra, 37

First Lieutenant Rami Hatem Khater, 30

First Lieutenant Abdul Hameed Muhammad Abdul Hameed Al-Khatib, 29

First Lieutenant Zaid Ahmad Mahmud Abu Zaid, 32

Mayor of Salfit Munir Al-Abushy said Israeli forces also demanded a fifth officer turn himself over into Israeli custody after they raided the home of First Lieutenant Ibrahim Abdul Dayem, but did not find him in the building.

Al-Abushy said he considered the Israeli forces' act to be a "clear message to the PA especially during the current political crisis with Israel." He further noted that the particular officers detained were the "finest in Salfit," and mentioned they were working on "anti-political crimes."

The homes of two civilians in Bethlehem were also raided early Friday morning, although the invasions appear to be unconnected with the high-level detentions. Among the raided homes in Bethlehem were those of Khader Jaber and Ahmad Al-Siury.

Later in the day Israeli media reported confirmation from the Israeli "defense establishment" of the detention of the five officers, but gave no details as to why the move was made. An Israeli military spokesperson, however, refused to comment on the issue.

Sources at the American consulate would not confirm US involvement in the issue.
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