updated 8/20/2006 10:57:02 AM ET 2006-08-20T14:57:02

Israeli troops detained a senior Hamas legislator on Sunday, pushing forward with a crackdown on the Islamic militant group, Palestinian officials and relatives of the man said.

Troops surrounded the home of Mahmoud al-Ramahi, secretary-general of the parliament, in broad daylight and detained him, said his sister, Yaqeen.

Al-Ramahi had evaded arrest since Israel began its crackdown on Hamas officials following the June 25 abduction of an Israeli soldier by Hamas-linked militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel is now holding five Cabinet ministers and more than two dozen lawmakers.

The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

A previous detention
The move comes a day after Israeli soldiers burst into the home of the Palestinian deputy prime minister before dawn and took him away for questioning, detaining the highest-ranking Hamas official in a seven-week-old crackdown against the ruling Islamic militant group.

Palestinian officials condemned the arrest of Nasser Shaer, a former university professor known as a pragmatist in Hamas, and accused Israel of undermining their efforts to form a broad government coalition.

Israel launched its latest crackdown against Hamas, which controls the Palestinian legislature and Cabinet, shortly after Hamas-allied militants from the Gaza Strip captured an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid June 25. Despite an ongoing Israeli military offensive in the coastal area, the soldier has not been freed.

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