Israeli police on Thursday detained a Cabinet minister in the Palestinians’ new Hamas-led government, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.
Khaled Abu Arafa, minister of Jerusalem affairs, was detained along with his bodyguard on his way to Izzariya, a West Bank suburb of Jerusalem, where he was to sign off on furniture and office equipment from his predecessor, Ziad Abu Zayyad, a moderate.
Paramilitary police stopped Abu Arafa’s car at a checkpoint at the entrance to Izzariya, said Ahmed Jalajel, a photographer for the Arabic Al-Quds daily, who was in the car with the minister when he was taken into custody.
“They asked us for ID, they said, ‘Get out.’ He (Abu Arafa) said, ‘I am not getting out.’ They opened the car and pushed him out,” Jalajel told The Associated Press.
“They asked him to sit down on the ground, and then they checked the IDs. They asked him to get into their jeep. He refused, then they pushed him into the jeep,” Jalajel said, adding that he tried to take a picture but the security forces broke his camera.
Israeli defense officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, confirmed Abu Arafa had been taken into custody.
Several previous detentions
Abu Arafa, a Jerusalem resident, has been detained several times by Israel in the past.
It appears he may have been taken into custody for trying to open an office in the town. Part of Izzariya is in Jerusalem, which is at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel claims the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want the eastern half for the capital of a future state.
The Palestinian Authority’s Jerusalem affairs office has been in the West Bank for several years because interim Israeli-Palestinian peace accords bar the Palestinian Authority from opening offices in the disputed city, said Abu Zayyad, the former minister.
Abu Zayyad said members of Abu Arafa’s entourage informed him of the detention. He said he had been scheduled to meet the new minister to hand over supplies that belong to the Palestinian Authority.
The Hamas Cabinet was sworn into office a week ago after the militant Islamic group won January parliamentary elections.