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Palestinian Parliamentary Speaker Detained
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Israeli security forces detained Palestinian parliamentary speaker Aziz Dweik, a leader of the governing Hamas movement, in a raid on his West Bank home Sunday.

Dweik told Al Arabiya television by telephone from an Israeli jail that he was taken from his home, handcuffed, blindfolded and was being kept with other Palestinian prisoners.

He said he would reject any Israeli deal to free him instead of Arab prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured by gunmen from Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza last month.

"Neither I nor my brotherly MPs want or would accept to be alternatives to our brotherly prisoners in the jails. If I live the rest of my life in prison, I won't accept to be an alternative or a card in any compromise," Dweik said.

Israeli forces detained eight members of the Palestinian cabinet and 23 deputies in June after gunmen from Hamas and two other militant groups infiltrated into Israel from Gaza and kidnapped the Israeli soldier. Three of the ministers have since been released.

The soldier's abductors are demanding that Israel free 1,000 Arab prisoners held in its jail and end an offensive on Gaza.

An Israeli army spokesman earlier confirmed Dweik was taken into custody. "He is the head of Hamas's legislature and since Hamas is a terrorist organization, he is a target for arrest."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned Dweik's detention and what he described as "Israeli piracy".

"We urge all Arab and international parliamentarians to condemn and denounce this crime and to secure the release of Aziz Dweik and all jailed ministers and lawmakers," Haniyeh said.

Hamas, which swept a January parliamentary election, is dedicated to Israel's destruction. International donors have cut funds to the Palestinian government, calling on Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept past interim peace deals.

(China Daily August 7, 2006)


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