Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Israel nabs Hamas MP at Red Cross headquarters


OCCUPIED-AL-QUDS/ UNITED NATIONS: Israeli police on Monday arrested a Hamas MP who had taken refuge inside the east al-Quds headquarters of the Red Cross for more than a year, police and another Hamas lawmaker told AFP.

Ahmad Atun was arrested on Monday morning in an operation by undercover police officers, who pounced on him at the entrance to the Red Cross offices in Sheikh Jarrah, a district in the city’s annexed eastern half.

The move was immediately denounced by Gaza’s Hamas rulers as well as by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which said it was part of an Israeli plan to evict Palestinians from east al-Quds which they one day hope to have as capital of their future state.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said Atun was arrested by plainclothes officers “on suspicion of involvement in Hamas activity in al-Quds,” after he had been “hiding in a Red Cross building” for more than a year.

Atun is one of three senior Hamas officials who took refuge inside the Red Cross building in June last year in order to avoid arrest for entering annexed east al-Quds without a residency permit.

All three are al-Quds residents who had their residency permits stripped in 2006 by Israel’s interior ministry because of their political activities with Hamas. “We confirm the arrest of PLC member Ahmed Atun. We are still looking into the circumstances of his arrest,” ICRC spokeswoman Cecilia Goin told AFP, referring to the Palestinian Legislative Council or parliament.

Khaled Abu Arafeh, former Palestinian minister for al-Quds affairs and one of the two Hamas officials still living inside the building, said Atun had been snatched in a carefully coordinated operation by police disguised as workers.

“He was standing at the gates of the Red Cross and police dressed like Palestinian workers kidnapped him,” he said, explaining that undercover police had staged two “traffic disputes” to deflect attention from their operation. “It was a set-up.” Nisrin Atun, the MP’s wife, told AFP one of the Israelis involved in the operation who was driving the car in front of her was dressed like a Palestinian woman wearing a headscarf.

“She got into a fight and I was stuck behind her. Then there was another fight involving a car in front of the Red Cross. I didn’t suspect anything until I saw the woman with the group of people who were leading my husband away handcuffed,” she told AFP.

Atun, Abu Arafeh and another Hamas MP, Mohammed Totah, had lived inside the compound for 453 days.

Many Palestinians fear the MPs’ expulsion could set a precedent for the removal of more of the nearly 270,000 Palestinians living in east al-Quds, which Israel occupied in 1967.

In a statement from its Geneva headquarters, the ICRC urged Israel to comply with its obligations under the fourth Geneva Convention which bars the forcible transfer of populations from an occupied territory. “The International Committee of the Red Cross calls upon the Israeli authorities to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

“Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 prohibits Israel, regardless of its motive, from forcibly transferring Palestinians,” it said, recalling that “east al-Quds is an occupied territory, and its Palestinian residents are protected persons.”

In Gaza, the Hamas authorities reacted angrily to Atun’s arrest, describing it as an attempt “to empty the city” of its Arab and Islamic presence, it said. A similar denunciation came from the West Bank city of Ramallah.

“This kidnap is part of the occupation’s ongoing policy of emptying the Holy City of all its residents and replacing them with Jewish settlers,” said presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Monday embarked on tortuous negotiations on the Palestinian bid for UN membership as major powers stepped up pressure for new Palestinian-Israeli talks.

There is little sign, however, that the two foes are ready to resume negotiations frozen for the past year, despite their proclamations since Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas made his historic application to the United Nations on Friday.

The UN Security Council holds its first formal talk on the Palestinian bid for state recognition at 3:00 pm (1900 GMT). The United States has vowed to veto any resolution in favor of the Palestinians, but no vote is expected for several weeks.

Ahead of the meeting, experts from the 15 council nations started contacts on how the bid will be dealt with, diplomats said. The council must refer the application to a special committee which will make a recommendation.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held talks with Lebanon’s Prime Minister Nijab Mikati at the Security Council chamber before the meeting. Lebanon holds the council presidency in September and has backed the Palestinian bid.

US President Barack Obama told Abbas publicly and privately last week that there could be no Palestinian state without an accord with the Israelis reached through direct talks. The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East—the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations—has launched a new bid to resume talks with a set timetable for an accord.

But Abbas, riding a wave of popular support in the occupied territories, says he is ready for talks but first there must be a “complete halt” to Israeli settlement building in the occupied territories.

Comment: MSM report this? How can we expect this swame international organization to insist that they be permitted to visit Gilad shalit when it colludes with his/our very enemy who kidnapped him? And this is not a story-shameful MSM.

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