The Associated Press
July 15, 2008 - 3:05pm

Israel Defense Forces troops early Tuesday arrested three Hamas council members in a raid on the northern West Bank city of Nablus.

Over the past year, Israel has arrested Nablus' Hamas mayor and six of the Hamas-controlled municipal council's 14 members in its efforts to crack down on the militant group's activities in the West Bank

The IDF did not immediately comment on the raid, which occurred in the early hours of the morning. Witnesses and residents say a total of 24 Hamas members were arrested, including the municipal officials.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his government have said the Israeli raids on Nablus damage his standing among the Palestinian public. Palestinians recently deployed security forces in Nablus and elsewhere in the West Bank under a security plan integral to peace talks.

The IDF last week shut down a number of Hamas institutions in the northern West Bank city, including a mall, a support group for militants jailed in Israel, an Islamic trade union organization, a medical society and two aid organizations in the Nablus refugee camps of Askar and Balata. Troops have also shut down a girls school, a sports club and the headquarters of the Solidarity charity.

Over the last few years, Hamas has built an "organizational system that, if necessary, could serve as the basis for a state," a senior IDF official told Haaretz last week. "It's simply a 'state of associations.' They accumulate a lot of popular support and rely on an enormous infusion of funds from abroad, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from bodies in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and Muslim communities in Europe, the United States and South America."


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