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Israel detains 2 more lawmakers

Jan. 23, 2012 4:03 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 28, 2012 10:30 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Monday detained two Palestinian MPs during a raid on the Jerusalem headquarters of the International Red Cross.

Mohammad Tawtah and former Jerusalem affairs' minister Khalid Abu Arafa are being questioned by Israeli police on suspicion of conducting "Hamas activities inside Jerusalem," Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma'an.

The elected officials took refuge at the Red Cross building in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah in July 2010 along with lawmaker Ahmad Attoun after Israel revoked their residency permits.

Attoun was detained at the ICRC office in September by paramilitary police disguised as Palestinians, a security guard at the building said.

The ICRC said Tawtah and Abu Arafa were arrested inside its premises, and said a relative of one of the men was also detained in a statement Monday.

The ICRC has said it told Israeli authorities that international humanitarian law prohibited the forcible transfer of Palestinian residents from their homes, for whatever reason.

The organization also said it had informed Hamas members in its compound that ICRC premises had no special status and it could not prevent police entering to arrest them.

At the ICRC compound, a crowd of Palestinians smashed its gate to protest against what they saw as the failure of the organization to protect the MPs. Hamas noted the two men were legislators and should enjoy immunity from arrest.

The arrests of Tawtah and Abu Arafa came days after Israeli forces detained two MPs in the West Bank, including the speaker of the Palestinian parliament Aziz Dweik, bringing the number of lawmakers in Israeli detention to 27.

On Monday, lawmakers protested Dweik's arrest in Ramallah and urged international parliaments to intervene.

"The speaker of the Legislative Council, Dr. Aziz Dweik, has been kidnapped for the second time -- in a terrorist way -- by these gangs that are controlling this occupied country," PLC member Ahmad Mubarak said.

Dweik faced an Israeli military court on Sunday but the trial was postponed.

"Because we decided re-open the legislative council meetings sessions. They do not want me to open the session of the council meeting," Dweik told reporters in Ofer military court.

All four lawmakers detained in the last week are affiliated to Hamas, and the movement accused Israel of trying to thwart the party's reconciliation with Fatah.

The Palestinian parliament has been inactive since Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary elections.

The parties signed a reconciliation agreement in May 2011 but it has yet to be implemented.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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