Palestinian forces arrest dozens of Hamas activists

RAMALLAH, West Bank Wed Sep 1, 2010 5:33pm EDT

Hamas supporters celebrate the shooting attack in the West Bank, in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, August 31, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

Hamas supporters celebrate the shooting attack in the West Bank, in Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, August 31, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammed Salem

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian security forces in the West Bank detained dozens of Hamas activists on Wednesday in response to a lethal attack on Jewish settlers in the occupied territory, a senior security source said.

The Hamas armed wing claimed responsibility for the killing of four Jewish settlers near Hebron on Tuesday on the eve of a new round of U.S.-backed peace talks.

"Dozens of Hamas members have been arrested, mainly in Hebron area and across the West Bank," the source said. "We are investigating if they have any links to the shooting attack. There will be more arrests."

Hamas sources in the West Bank said some 150 activists, including relatives of senior party figures, had been arrested in a sweep that began shortly after the shooting.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the arrests were an "act of treason."

"These arrests prove the security services in the West Bank work to serve the security of the occupation," he said.

The Hamas armed wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack from the Gaza Strip, which the group has controlled since 2007 when it defeated President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority in a short civil war.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said he would prevent a repeat of such attacks. His Western-backed administration, which is set to resume peace talks with Israel on Thursday, is opposed to violence.

Tuesday's shooting was the most lethal attack on Israelis in the West Bank in four years.

The shooting confounded recent Hamas signals that it will deter militants from resuming attacks on Israel of the sort that triggered the devastating military assault of the winter of 2008-09 in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Tom Perry and Angus MacSwan)

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