(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
Israel arrested last night several members of Hamas including a number of senior officials, ministers and legislators, on the basis of their being members and in some cases activists in a terrorist organization whose activities are banned by law.
The rise of the Hamas terrorist organization to power was seen as a grave development that brought the international community to demand of the Hamas government an immediate cessation of terrorism. The Government of Israel at that time acted with restraint in order to give the President of the Palestinian Authority the opportunity to get the Hamas government to abandon the path of terrorism and violence.
Recent events and especially those of the last few days prove that the results of the elections in the Palestinian Authority were translated into a government policy of terrorism. A manifestation of this policy has been the continuing launching of Kassam rocket attacks against communities in southern Israel and against the civilian population with the explicit intention of sowing destruction and causing the deaths of innocent people; the incursion into the territory of Israel and the kidnapping of the soldier Gilad Shalit constituted a severe escalation as part of the terrorist policy of the Palestinian government.
Hamas’ taking of responsibility for these events and for the kidnapping of the soldier, as well as the demand for an exchange of captives, prove that the main purpose of Hamas is not to care for the welfare of the Palestinian people, but to carry out a terrorist policy against Israel. Consequently, the Government of Israel decided, as its basic obligation to its citizens, that it must fulfill its responsibilities and carry out the requirements of the Ordinance for the Prevention of Terrorism.
Israel’s action was taken within the context of a normal legal criminal procedure with the intention of questioning those who were arrested. They are suspected of criminal offenses such as membership or activities in a terrorist organization, membership in the leadership of a terrorist organization and other possible offenses that constitute a violation of the law according to the Ordinance for the Prevention of Terrorism.
The action is a legal criminal procedure which will be subject to all the rules governing such a procedure, i.e. those arrested will be entitled to legal defense, and their detention and questioning will be subject to judicial review. In the event that there is no basis for putting someone among those arrested on trial, that person will be released.
Israel’s change of policy vis-à-vis ministers and legislators who are members and activists in Hamas was carried out in coordination and with the approval of the judicial system, and Israel intends to continue with the arrest of additional members of Hamas.