A Hamas spokesman is among more than 60 members of the militant organization detained by Israel in overnight raids across the West Bank, the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory that is increasingly feeling the impact of the fighting in Gaza.
Separately, a number of Palestinians were killed in an ongoing Israeli military operation in the Nour Shams refugee camp in the city of Tulkarem in the West Bank on Thursday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Israel Security Agency Shin Bet on Friday confirmed to CNN the arrest of the spokesman, Hassan Yousef “on suspicion of acting on behalf of Hamas.”
Hassan Yousef, a leading Palestinian political figure who served as the official Hamas spokesperson in the West Bank, was detained in his home, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, an NGO representing Palestinian detainees.
“Occupation forces arrested Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef from his home in Beitunia, as part of a wide-scale arrest campaign in the occupation (sic) West Bank,” the Palestinian Prisoners Club statement reads.
Yousef has been arrested by Israeli forces on several occasions and has spent a total of 24 years in Israeli jails on various charges of incitement, entering Jerusalem without permission and for being a Hamas member.
He has made regular appearances on international media, this week telling Canadian outlet The Globe and Mail he thought Hamas would be prepared to free the estimated 200 hostages it is holding if Israel agrees to a 24-hour ceasefire to allow aid into Gaza.
CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment on Hassan Yousef’s reported detention but has not heard back so far.
The IDF has said there was an operation by Israeli security forces.
“Following wide-scale counterterrorism activity overnight in Judea and Samaria [the Jewish biblical names for the West Bank], over 80 wanted suspects were apprehended, including 63 Hamas terror operatives,” it said.
A total of 850 Palestinians have been detained in the West Bank since Hamas’s brutal attack inside Israel on October 7, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club. They are said to include lawmakers, prominent figures, journalists, and former detainees who have served extended terms in Israeli jails.
Mustafa Barghouti, the General Secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative, told CNN that “there is a massive Israeli operation to arrest Palestinians.”
“Every night, they are conducting more and more arrests. The number of Palestinian prisoners now in Israeli jails is up to 6,300,” Barghouti added. “They’re not charged, they’re not taken to court. They’re no due legal process and that’s what they call administrative detention, including no less than 200 children who are now in Israeli jails.”
The Israeli crackdown comes as the Gaza conflict has increasingly spilled over to the West Bank.
A number of Palestinians were shot dead in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank on Thursday, according to the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Health. The ministry told CNN that it had confirmed the deaths of six people and that death toll was likely to rise. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops have been reported at a number of locations.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said its staff were trying to reach the casualties in Nour Shams, adding that, “There are difficulties in reaching some of the injured individuals, and ambulances with injured people inside are being detained by [Israeli] occupying forces.”
CNN has reached out to the IDF to respond to this allegation.
Since Israel took control and occupied the West Bank in 1967 from Jordan following the Six Day War, the territory, which residents hope will form part of a future Palestinian state, has been partially settled by Israeli civilians, often under Israeli military protection.
Most of the world considers these settlements illegal under international law, but despite this successive Israeli governments have pledged support for them.
Israel views the West Bank as “disputed territory,” and contends its settlement policy is legal.