Page last updated at 10:53 GMT, Sunday, 14 March 2010

Senior Hamas leader seized in West Bank - Israeli army

The mother of Mahar Uda holds a portrait of him
Israeli forces had been hunting Mr Uda for more than a decade

A leading member of the Palestinian militant group Hamas has been arrested in the West Bank, Israel's army says.

It says Mahar Uda, 47, was seized overnight in the Ramallah region. He is said to be one of the founders of Hamas' armed wing in the West Bank.

Hamas said Palestinian security forces helped Israel arrest Mr Uda.

Israeli forces have been hunting for him for more than 10 years in connection with a series of deadly attacks in Israel.

"He had been on the wanted list since the end of the 1990s for his implication in a series of suicide attacks in Israel which claimed 70 lives," an Israeli military spokesman told the AFP news agency.


Militants under Mr Uda's command also allegedly gathered ammunition for Hamas attacks against Israel and kidnapped Palestinians suspected of co-operating with Israel.

A statement from Hamas said Mr Uda had been seized in a village under the control of the Palestinian Authority, which is headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and that Palestinian forces had assisted in the arrest.

So far there have been no public comments by the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli forces and the rival Palestinian leadership in the West Bank have battled the militant group since 2007.

That was when Hamas took sole control of Gaza, which is blockaded by Israel.

Hamas is the largest Palestinian militant Islamist organisation, formed in 1987 at the beginning of the first Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation in the West Bank and Gaza.

Designated a terrorist organisation by Israel, the US and the EU, it is seen by its supporters as a legitimate fighting force defending Palestinians from military occupation.

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