IDF Arrests Hamas Members in the 'West Bank'

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israel is trying to stop Hamas from infiltrating the West Bank and taking control from the Palestinian Authority as they did in the Gaza Strip, where they have been gradually imposing strict Islamic law.

Twenty Hamas members were among 25 wanted men taken into custody by Israeli security forces overnight Sunday in Nablus, Ramallah, and Kalkilya.

Among the detainees are Hamas legislators Hatem Kafisheh, Mohammed al-Tal, and Ahmed Atoun.

Several senior members of the Gaza-based Palestinian faction, including Adnan Asfour, Baker Bilal, and Omar al-Jabarini, were also arrested, The Jerusalem Post reported.

A number of those taken into custody have been questioned in the past for their role in terror-related attacks.

The IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) are closely monitoring Hamas's efforts to infiltrate the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), believing it plans to wrest control from the PA, as it did in Gaza in June 2007.

In the five-plus years since taking over Gaza, Hamas -- an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood -- has increasingly imposed Sharia law on its residents.

In a piece entitled "Hamas's Talibanization of the Gaza Strip," posted by the Gatestone Institute, Khaled Abu Toameh documents how Hamas is transforming Gaza into a Taliban-style entity.

For example, female students attending al-Aksa University must now come to class with their heads and faces covered by the traditional Muslim hijab. A few years ago, Hamas ruled that female lawyers must wear the hijab in court and banned dress shops from using female mannequins.

Hamas has also imposed Sharia law on the male population, banning certain clothing and hairstyles for men.

"The decision to ban low-waist trousers and Western-style haircuts is directed against young Palestinian men in the Gaza Strip who have apparently been exposed to Western fashions thanks to television and the Internet," Toameh reported.

According to the report, Hamas rebuffed remarks by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which said it's trying to create a "Taliban-style entity" in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas is apparently continuing its efforts to infiltrate PA-controlled cities in Judea and Samaria as newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry vows to focus on restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The incoming secretary of state spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss his first official trip here in mid-February.

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