RAMALLAH — Israeli occupation forces abducted Sunday night Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Aziz Dweik after raiding his home in Ramallah and killed five Palestinians, including three children, in the Gaza Strip.
"We were sitting home peacefully, normally. Then we heard knocking on the door, which surprised and shocked us because the knocking was so loud," his wife told Reuters after the night-time arrest.
"He went down because the army was there. He opened the door. They saw him in his pyjamas and asked him to go with them.
He asked for his clothes, and I brought them."
She said the Israeli troops also seized two computers and documents of the Palestinian parliament from their house.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed Dweik, 58, was taken into custody.
"He is the head of Hamas's legislature and since Hamas is a terrorist organization, he is a target for arrest," he claimed.
Dweik, elected speaker in February following Hamas's sweeping election victory, was the most senior of more than sixty Palestinian cabinet ministers, lawmakers, mayors and politicians kidnapped by Israeli forces.
Israeli occupation forces detained eight members of the Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet and 23 legislators in June.
Second Deputy Speaker Hassan Khreishe was also kidnapped by Israel but released last Sunday after a one-month detention.
Minister of Planning Samir abu Eisheh was released in mid-July, and Prisoners' Affairs Minister Wasfi Kibha was freed on Wednesday.
Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last Monday that Israeli soldiers kidnapped 600 Palestinians since Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was taken a prisoner by resistance groups on June 25.
"We condemn and reject this Israeli piracy," Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters.
"We urge all Arab and international parliamentarians to condemn and denounce this crime and to secure the release of Aziz Dweik and all jailed ministers and lawmakers," he said.
"Israel is a state above the law. There's no point in even questioning why. They do whatever they want," said government spokesman Ghazi Hamad.
First Deputy Speaker Ahmad Bahar said the abduction is a violation of the 4th Geneva Convention, aiming at paralyzing the legislature and ousting the democratically elected government.
Hamas MPs issued a statement on Sunday condemning Israel’s utter disregard for international law and international legitimacy.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat condemned the abduction and demanded that Dweik and the other detainees be released.
Palestinian students protest deafening international silence over Israeli aggressions. (Reuters)
On the ground, Israeli occupation forces killed three Palestinian children and two resistance fighters in the Gaza Strip on Saturday and early Sunday, as the Israeli military pressed an incursion in the southern city of Rafah.
A Palestinian child was killed by an overnight Israeli air raid, Palestinian hospital sources said Sunday, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Earlier, Omar al-Nuri, 17, and his 15-year-old sister Kiffah were killed by a missile fired from a drone as they fled an Israeli tank near their house in the border town of Rafah, hospital officials said.
Their mother Huda, 45, and another unidentified family member were in critical condition after being wounded in the strike, hospital officials said. A third family member was lightly wounded.
Earlier, two resistance fighters were killed in separate Israeli air strikes in the area, hospital and security officials said.
The Israeli army has unleashed a major incursion around Rafah since early on Thursday, which has involved dozens of armored personnel carriers and bulldozers backed up by aviation.
According to an AFP count, a total of 16 Palestinians have been killed in the operation, including a 12-year-old boy.
A total of 5,318 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed since the start of Al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000, according to a separate AFP tally.
The Rafah incursion is part of a wider offensive in the coastal strip that Israel launched on June 28, three days after Palestinian resistance fighters killed two soldiers and seized a third in a cross-border raid.
The offensive has destroyed much of densely-packed Gaza's infrastructure, including its sole power plant, sparking warnings of a deteriorating humanitarian situation.