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Israeli forces detain Palestinian minister

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GAZA, Apr 6 (Reuters) Israeli security forces took into custody a member of the new Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet today at a roadblock on the outskirts of Jerusalem and released him five hours later.

The Israeli army said Khaled Abu Araf was detained because his is barred from the area. The incident was another sign of Israel's tough line towards the Islamic militant group dedicated to its destruction.

''The Hamas minister was detained at about 9 a.m. 1130 IST.

He was not questioned at any point and was released at 1830 IST '' an army spokesman said.

Security officials quoted by the Haaretz Web site said Abu Araf, an independent, was detained because as the holder of an Israeli identity card he is banned by Israel from entering areas administrated by the Palestinian Authority.

Abu Araf, minister of state for Jerusalem affairs, can carry an Israeli ID because he lives in Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 Middle East war in a move that is not recognised internationally.

Abu Arafa was stopped at an impromptu roadblock that Israeli soldiers positioned in the occupied West Bank, north of Jerusalem, Hamas sources said.

''They stopped the car and asked the minister to get out and when he refused they forced him by pointing the rifle in his face,'' one of the sources said, citing accounts from witnesses who telephoned Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Abu Arafa was en route to the office of former Palestinian minister Ziad Abu Ziad for a handover ceremony and was taken by soldiers to an unknown location, the sources said.

He was released five hours after being taken to an Israeli police station in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim outside Jerusalem, said a Reuters cameraman at the scene.

Hamas, sworn to Israel's destruction, held its first cabinet meeting yesterday following its victory in the January 25 Palestinian election.

Israel says it cannot consider dealing with Hamas until the group recognises the Jewish state, renounces violence and accepts prior interim Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.

Palestinian cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad said Israel was undermining the work of the new government.

''The arrest of a cabinet minister proves the falseness of Israel's arguments that it seeks peace,'' Hamad said.

The Haaretz web site said the Shin Bet security service had detained Abu Arafa and a bodyguard.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move that was not recognised internationally.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza.

REUTERS OM PC1828

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