An Israeli soldier arrests a Palestinian man during an arrest raid in the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank city of Nablus on Thursday. The army said troops arrested 10 people, including 2 wanted militants. Israel rounded up more than 30 Hamas leaders in the West Bank on Wednesday, including a Cabinet minister, taking its conflict with Hamas over daily Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza to a new level, drawing condemnation from the moderate Palestinian president and threats of punishing Hamas. Photo by Majdi Mohammed/AP.

Jerusalem – Israeli security officials have confirmed to the Middle East Newsline that Palestinian armed forces have been extending the range of their missiles to achieve a missile range of 25 kilometers, which would enable Palestinian strikes against major cities in Israel in an effort to strike much of southern Israel. Hamas and Islamic Jihad were improving their indigenous missiles in cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah.

IDF Arrests Top Hamas Leaders

On Wednesday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Israel’s General Security Services (GSS) arrested 33 top Hamas leaders in Judea and Samaria. Among them: Education Minister Dr. Nasser al-Din Shaer, three MPs, the mayor of Nablus and his deputy. Defense Minister Amir Peretz explained that the arrests were meant to send a message to the organization that fires Kassams at Israel.

The IDF said Thursday morning that 10 Hamas members were arrested in the Nablus area, five in Kalkilya, four in the Ramallah area, four in the Maccabim area, four in Bethlehem and six in Hebron. Among them were also the mayors of Kalkilya, Bidiya, el-Bireh, a high-ranking director in the Interior Ministry, the wakf leader in Nablus and the director general of the Public Works Department in the region.

In addition, IDF troops closed Hamas institutions Wednesday night in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and el-Azariya. Hamas communication stations in Nablus and Kalkilya were also closed, which are suspected of inciting and calling for terror against Israel.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz said Thursday morning in an interview to Israel Army Radio that the arrests are reversible. “The arrest of these Hamas members is a message to the military organizations that we demand that the fire stop. We were as restrained as possible and we will do anything that can have an effect on the situation, not necessarily actions that will lead to killing and violence.”

GSS sources said the arrests were meant to prevent terror activity.

“Last night’s [Wednesday night’s] operation in Judea and Samaria was meant to prevent continual plans by Hamas to transfer its terror ability from Gaza to Judea and Samaria,” the sources said. “Many such attempts were made in the past, for example, the ability to manufacture Kassam rockets from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, and these attempts were prevented thanks to GSS and IDF activity.”

U.S. ‘Concerned’ By Arrests

In his daily United States State Department briefing on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that the U.S. is “concerned” by Israel’s arrest of 33 senior members of Hamas overnight. His announcement was echoed by the U.S. envoy to the U.N., Michael Williams. While Hamas is a terrorist organization, Casey said, the arrest of Palestinian

©The Bulletin 2007

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.