A Palestinian researcher, who specializes in detainees’ affairs, Riyadh al-Ashqar, reported that the number of elected Palestinian legislators currently imprisoned by Israel has risen to 26 following the abduction on Friday of the head of the Legislative Council, Dr. Aziz Dweik, and Legislator Khaled Tafesh.Dweik was held for two hours at an Israeli military roadblock prior to being taken into custody, while Tafesh was abducted after the army broke into his home in Bethlehem, and ransacked it. Soldiers also confiscated the personal computer and the mobile phone of Tafesh.

Al-Ashqar further stated that Israel has recently stepped-up its attacks against elected Palestinian officials, highlighting that most of the detained legislators were imprisoned, released, and re-arrested in 2011 without any charges brought against them as they are confined under administrative detention orders that are frequently renewed for several months each time. It is not necessary for the Israeli military prosecutor to file charges against them under administrative detention, and the prosecution uses a so-called secret file that the defense attorney cannot have access to.

He said that the kidnapping of the elected legislators, especially the head of the Legislative Council, is carried out under direct political decisions made by the office of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and not by regional military commanders.

Al-Ashqar stated that arrests targeting legislators, including former and active ministers, prove that Israel disrespects international laws, especially laws and regulations regarding the protection of democratically elected officials.

The official concluded by stating that the arrest of Dweik comes at this sensitive time due to the fact that Israel aims at foiling, or at least delaying, the implementation of the Palestinian reconciliation and national unity agreement that would ensure a united Palestinian political leadership for the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).