Israeli Troops Arrest Senior Hamas Lawmaker

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Israeli troops on Sunday detained a senior Hamas legislator, pushing forward with a crackdown on the Islamic militant group, Palestinian officials and relatives of the man said.

Troops surrounded the home of Mahmoud al-Ramahi, secretary-general of the parliament, in broad daylight and detained him, said his sister, Yaqeen.

Al-Ramahi had evaded arrest since Israel began its crackdown on Hamas following the June 25 abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked militants in the Gaza Strip.

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The army had no immediate comment.

Al-Ramahi, a physician by training, is the fourth-ranking member of the parliament, responsible for many administrative and procedural matters. With his arrest, Israel now has almost all of Hamas' West Bank leadership in custody.

Early Saturday, troops arrested Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Shaer at a home where he had been hiding in Ramallah. He was the most senior Hamas official to be detained yet. Israel is now holding five Cabinet ministers and more than two dozen lawmakers. Four other Cabinet ministers have been released.

Mushir Masri, a Hamas lawmaker in Gaza, called the arrest "cheap Israeli extortion that runs against all international laws." He told The Associated Press that "we hold Israel responsible for all the serious consequences if it insists on kidnapping lawmakers and ministers."

Despite Israel's crackdown on Hamas political leaders, and a large offensive in the Gaza Strip, the captured Israeli soldier, Cpl. Gilad Shalit, has still not been released. The militants holding him have demanded a wide-scale release of Palestinian prisoners — a demand Israel has rejected.