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The Palestinian Initiatives for The Promotoion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

Jerusalem, 29 June 2006:The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH) is deeply alarmed at the escalating situation in the occupied Palestinian territories following Israel’s abduction of 21 Palestinian members of parliament (PLC members) and 8 cabinet ministers from the West Bank late last night and during the early hours of this morning.

In a wide-scale assault against various Palestinian cities and towns in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army launched a wave of abductions against what it called “members of a terrorist organization,” which included senior political figures from the democratically-elected Hamas government and PLC members, as well as members of other Palestinian political groups.

The arrested ministers are: Mohammed al-Barghouthi - Minister of Labor, Omar Abdul Razeq - Minister of Finance, Samir Abu Eisheh - Minister of Planning, Wasfi Kabaha - Minister for Prisoners Affairs, Nayef Rjoub - Minister of Waqf and Religious Affairs, Khaled Abu Arafeh - Minister for Jerusalem Affairs, Issa al-Ja'bari - Minister of Local Government.

The arrested members of parliament include: Ahmad Attoun - PLC member (Jerusalem), Mohammed Abu Teir - PLC member (Jerusalem), Wael al-Husseini - PLC member (Jerusalem), Anwar Zboun - PLC member (Bethlehem), Mahmoud al-Khatib - PLC member (Bethlehem), Riyadh Raddad - PLC member (Tulkarem)

The Israeli army also arrested the mayor of the northern West Bank city of Qalqilya, Wajih Qawwas, and his deputy Hashem al-Masri.

In addition to the above, Israeli military forces abducted 30 other Palestinian activists throughout the West Bank.

The Israeli government has downplayed claims that it carried out the wave of abductions in an attempt to bargain the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Palestinian resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip last Sunday. Shalit was taken hostage during a military operation against Israel’s occupation and in response to the wave of terrorist attacks by the Israeli army against the Gaza Strip last month, which claimed the lives of at least 20 Palestinian civilians, including 7 members of the same family.

MIFTAH equally expresses grave concern regarding Israel’s premeditated military offensive campaign against Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, which began early Wednesday with a wave of air and ground attacks, so far resulting in the complete destruction of basic infrastructure in the Strip, including the cut off of electricity from the southern Gaza districts.

There are serious fears among the civilian Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip that Israel’s aggression in the coming days will aim to inflict unprecedented degrees of pain and destruction, particularly in the Rafah district. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has condemned Israel’s military offensive and called it “collective punishment.”

MIFTAH calls on the international community to take immediate steps in order to prevent a serious humanitarian crisis in the already impoverished and shattered Gaza Strip, and urges governmental and non-governmental organizations to intervene to bring an end to Israel’s punitive measures against the civilian population of the occupied Palestinian territories, particularly in the Gaza Strip.

MIFTAH also calls for the immediate release of all Palestinian cabinet ministers, PLC members, and activists, and calls upon the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violation of their immunity as elected members of the Palestinian political leadership.

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, MIFTAH, is a non-governmental, non-partisan Jerusalem-based institution dedicated to fostering democracy and good governance within Palestinian society through promoting public accountability, transparency, the free flow of information and ideas and the challenging of stereotyping at home and abroad.

For further information, please contact:
Media and Information Programme, MIFTAH
Tel: +972 2 585 1842
Fax: +972 2 583 5184
E-mail: mip@miftah.org
Website: www.miftah.org

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