A senior Israeli military source reported, on Monday, that most of the Palestinian residents arrested over the last two days, after Israel launched its “Operation First Rain”, are candidates representing Hamas in the upcoming third round of the municipal elections.

“The army arrested 200 Palestinian residents”, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported, “Among them, 120 political leaders of Hamas in the West Bank, and dozens of prominent members of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad”.

Among the arrestees, several key figures of Hamas expected its candidates to the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled on January, 25, 2005.

Soldiers arrested Sheikh Hasan Yousef, one of Hamas political leaders, his two sons, and Mohammad Ghazal, a senior Hamas leader in Nablus area.

Ghazal supports the involvement of Hamas in the Palestinian political process.

The arrests were carried out while Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian factions, prepare to participate in the municipal elections in 100 Palestinian villages next Thursday, and for the fourth round in central cities slated for December 8, 2005.  

Also, Haaretz reported that the arrests might be beneficial for Hamas, since the Palestinians might vote for the detained candidates in the local elections, but it might be harmful for Hamas in the legislative elections.  

Most of the arrested residents are from Hebron, Bethlehem, and Jenin.