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Arrests Hit Israeli Muslim Group

TEL AVIV — Israeli authorities are working to outlaw the Islamic Movement, a fast-growing organization with tens of thousands of followers in Israel’s Arab community, mainly in the Galilee.

The head of the Islamic Movement, Sheik Ra’ad Salah, was taken into police custody for questioning this week and court proceedings were under way for remanding another 14 officials from the movement’s northern branch. The suspects were allegedly involved in transferring foreign funds through Israel to Hamas knowing that the money would be used to help the Palestinian Islamic group’s terrorist activity. Among those arrested is the treasurer of the movement.

The two-year-long investigation, conducted by the Shin Bet security service, Northern District Police and National Fraud Squad, focused on overseas fundraising activities and money-laundering for Hamas, mediated by Salah’s organization. The monies — an estimated $12 million over the years — were sent to the Israeli offices as contributions to humanitarian projects, and then channeled to Hamas. According to statements made by police, the suspects knew at least some of the money would be used to support the Hamas terrorist infrastructure, including payments for the orphans of suicide bombers.

Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, appearing at the Knesset’s Interior Committee, said the arrests would likely lead to another round of arrests as police learn more from interrogations and from the documents they confiscated.

Islamic Movement spokesman Tawfik Mahmeed denied any connection to any political or religious movement in the territories.

Hamas said in a statement that the arrests were “a new escalation against Muslims and Arabs in occupied Palestine.”

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