Israeli security forces have arrested Hassan Yusef, one of Hamas’ top figures in the occupied West Bank, in an overnight raid near Ramallah, the Israeli army said.
“During the night, forces of the army and the Shin Bet [internal security service] arrested Hassan Yusef, a Hamas leader, in Beitunia, southwest of Ramallah,” an army statement said on Tuesday.
Speaking to Al Jazeera from the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Ghazi al-Hamad said Yusef’s arrest was “part of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians”.
“It’s designed to keep Palestinians from resisting its occupation. The Israeli government is trying to pressure Hamas and other Palestinians in an effort to end the Intifada in Palestine,” Hamad said.
Yusef has been arrested by the Israeli authorities several times, starting from 1993, and became the visible leader of the second Intifada which started in 2000.
In 2005, he was nominated to represent Hamas during the elections as an absentee candidate as he was in jail.
Rights groups have decried Israeli measures as the government continues to crack down on Palestinians, among them many Israeli citizens, amid unrest across the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.
On Monday, police arrested eight activists for their participation in protests last week in Umm al-Fahm, a Palestinian town in northern Israel, local media reported.
In one week, Israeli police arrested more than 100 demonstrators and activists during protests in Palestinian areas, according to Adalah, a Haifa-based legal centre for Palestinians in Israel.
Nadim Nashif, director of Baladna, a Haifa-based Palestinian youth advocacy group, said Israel has launched “a harsh crackdown”.
“Like during the second Intifada, Israel wants us to be scared, shut up and not participate. But our participation has been big,” he told Al Jazeera.
Since the beginning of the month, protests have been held in Nazareth, Haifa, Acre, Sakhnin, Tamra and Arrabeh, among other Palestinian communities in Israel.
“The uprising is everywhere,” Nashif said.