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Israel convicts Hamas members of 'terror membership'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

An Israeli court on Thursday found two senior Hamas members who had taken refugee in Red Cross east Jerusalem offices guilty of "membership of a terror organisation" and staying in Israel without permits.

Former Palestinian minister for Jerusalem affairs Khaled Abu Arafeh and Hamas MP Mohammed Totah had barricaded themselves in the International Committee of the Red Cross offices on July 1, 2010, but were arrested on January 23, 2012.

The ICRC compound is in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of occupied east Jerusalem.

The Thursday ruling at the Jerusalem district court, provided to AFP, was part of a plea bargain the two reached with the prosecution.

Sentencing is due to begin on February 26.

Israel has stepped up arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, in part to prevent a rising tide of low-intensity conflict and civil unrest from turning into an uprising.

Last week, 25 Hamas members were arrested in raids across the West Bank, three of them members of the Palestinian parliament. Palestinian security forces rounded up at least 25 more.

Hamas has 74 members in the 132-seat Palestinian Authority Legislative Council, which is based in Ramallah. Fifteen Hamas lawmakers are currently being held by Israel.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130214/israel-convicts-hamas-members-terror-membership