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Israel rounds up 154 Palestinians

Detainees suspected of having ties to Hamas, IDF says

Blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinians sit at an army base in the West Bank town of Hebron on Tuesday.
Blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinians sit at an army base in the West Bank town of Hebron on Tuesday.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- In what it said was a response to recent suicide attacks, the Israeli army overnight rounded up 154 Palestinians in the West Bank, 130 of them in the West Bank city of Hebron and suspected of having ties to Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces said Tuesday.

All were detained overnight.

The raids come as Hamas -- the Palestinian militant group whose military wing has claimed responsibility for many of the recent terror attacks against Israelis -- holds cease-fire talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

"The Hamas infrastructure in Hebron is responsible for the killing of 52 Israeli citizens in the last year, including the suicide bombing in Jerusalem on June 11," an IDF statement said. That suicide bombing, on an Israeli bus in Jerusalem, killed 17 people.

Hamas leaders said the arrests and detentions are another factor complicating their decision on whether to accept the "hudna" or cease-fire. Hamas has been pressing Israel to give its guarantee that it will stop targeting and killing Hamas members. Israel has been reluctant to curtail its operations, even indirectly, diplomatic sources have said.

Michael Tarazi, legal adviser to the Palestinian Authority, condemned the arrests, accusing Israel of a "clear attempt at undermining the Palestinian Authority and the road map" to a Middle East peace.

"While the Palestinian Authority is pushing for prisoners to be released as a sign of good will, Israel is doing the opposite and taking more political prisoners," Tarazi said. "Israel is undermining the Palestinian Authority because, if there is a deal with Hamas and the group ends its violence against Israelis, it will mean Israel will have to meet its obligations under the road map. It doesn't want to do that."

The U.S.-backed road map calls for steps on both sides toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing an independent Palestine by 2005. As part of the plan, Abbas has denounced the armed intifada and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pledged to dismantle unauthorized outposts in Palestinian territory.

No substantial resistance was encountered in the house-to-house raids that ended Tuesday morning, according to the IDF.

"Some people are just needed for inquiry and will probably be released within hours," an army source said.

In other West Bank sweeps, Israeli forces said they arrested five Palestinians in Nablus -- three reportedly from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and two from Tanzim.

Tanzim is the term Israeli officials use to describe militia members of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States.

Other arrests of Palestinians reported by IDF included:

• Two in the Al Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem.

• Two in Beit Sahur.

• One Fatah militia member in Ramallah who allegedly was involved in shooting attacks.

• One Islamic Jihad member in A-Til, near Tulkarem.

• Nine in Tulkarem wanted for questioning.

Israeli troops also demolished the house of Jalal Khalil Muhammad Mahmid in a village near Jenin. He is an Islamic Jihad activist who Israel said tried to drive a car bomb into the country last September.

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