Palestinian officials 'detained' by Israel

Four Palestinian cabinet ministers, and dozens of officials of Hamas, have been detained in a move to "destabilise" the Hamas government according to Palestinian sources.

However, in what are said to be separate moves by the Israeli government against militia targets in Palestine, two militants are reported to have been killed.

Numerous targets have been attacked by Israeli forces and heavy exchanges of fire have been reported in northern Gaza.

One Palestinian militant was reported to have been killed in a missile strike in Rafah, another was killed by weapons fire in Nablus, both in the Gaza Strip.

The escalation of tension in the region has been a cause of "particular concern" for Foreign ministers who have called on the Israelis to show "restraint."

Palestinian militants armed with assault rifles and anti-tank weapons are reported to have taken up positions as they wait incursions into the northern region of the Gaza Strip.

Yesterday, Israeli tanks and troops, backed by air support, moved into the southern Gaza Strip as Israel attempted to liberate an Israeli soldier captured on Sunday, June 19.

The crisis deepened on Wednesday when Israeli forces shelled and bombed targets in the Gaza Strip, amid a declaration by Israel that it was prepared to take "extreme steps" in a bid to free soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit.

A number of bridges and other key positions have been seized by Israeli forces as diplomatic efforts by the UN and Arab nations were intensified.

The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appealed for the UN to intervene to secure the release of the Hamas officials.

Palistinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya condemned the detention as a move aimed at destabalising the Hamas leadership.

Mr Haniya said that steps were being taken to secure the release of the Israeli soldier, but he said that Hamas policies would not be changed.

Earlier this week the body of a Jewish settler who had been seized by Palestinian militants was found near Ramallah.


Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

11 November 2004
Arafat passes away in French hospital
The Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has died at a French military hospital in the early hours of this morning. The 75-year-old Palestinian leader is understood to have died from a brain haemorrhage after slipping into a coma on November 3.
04 October 2004
Straw calls for Israeli restraint to end 'unnecessary suffering'
The British foreign secretary has called for restraint from the Israelis after causing "unnecessary suffering" during recent military incursions into the Gaza Strip. Jack Straw was speaking after a bloody weekend of violence in the region which claimed the lives of at least 70 people.
14 March 2006
British office attacked in Gaza
Protestors have set fire to the British council building in Gaza, following an Israeli raid on a Palestinian prison. It has also been reported that several foreign nationals, including a Swiss Red Cross official, two French citizens and a Korean have been taken hostage.
16 August 2005
Gaza settlers clash with troops over Israeli pullout
Jewish settlers have been engaged in violent clashes with Israeli troops, as the pullout from the Gaza Strip continues. According to reports, more than 50 people have been arrested in the largest settlement, as Jewish settlers from 21 settlements leave Gaza ahead of the deadline off 22:00 BST on Tuesday night.
01 April 2003
Blunkett reveals new powers to strip citizenship
Under measures announced today by Home Secretary David Blunkett citizens with dual nationality could be stripped of their British passport if they act in a way that is "seriously prejudicial" to the UK's vital interests.