By Judah Ari Gross
Palestinian media say 45 people detained in overnight raids; military says it picked up 21 operatives; arrests come amid uptick in West Bank violence
Today, 4:16 pm
Israeli security forces arrested large numbers of suspected Hamas members in predawn raids in the Hebron area on Tuesday, in an apparent show of strength to the terror group amid an uptick in Palestinian violence in recent weeks.
Palestinian media reported that upwards of 45 people were arrested in the flashpoint city and surrounding towns, including Bayt Umar, Dura and Yatta.
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed conducting the raids, but said only 21 people — all suspected Hamas members — were arrested. It was not immediately clear what accounted for the discrepancy, but it appeared to derive from the military’s policy of counting only those placed under arrest, excluding those detained for a short period of time and then released.
According to the official Palestinian Authority news site Wafa, many of those arrested were former security prisoners who had been released from Israeli prisons.
An IDF spokesperson said the mass arrests were not tied to a specific Hamas plot, but were motivated by the “usual” reasons of suspected involvement in terrorist activities; low-level violence like rock throwing; and taking part in violent protests against Israeli security forces.
Hamas parliamentarian Nayef Rajoub, who Israeli forces have detained numerous times, accused Israel of “drilling for a major and violent attack” on West Bank Palestinians.
“This is merely training for a widespread arrest operation… Israeli soldiers struck down the doors of homes, entered without permission and gathered detainees in two buses before taking them to a tent built for their detention in the Hebron area,” Rajoub said.
Some of the detainees had been freed as of Tuesday afternoon, while others remained in Israeli custody, according to Rajoub.
The raids came amid an uptick in Palestinian violence emanating from the West Bank in recent weeks, with a deadly stabbing inside Israel by a Palestinian worker, a car-ramming at Tapuah Junction that injured a police officer and a soldier, and several failed attempted attacks, according to Israeli security forces.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.