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Israel Arrests 15 Arab Residents on Hamas Funding Charges

Israeli police have arrested 15 members of the country's Islamic Movement on charges that it has been helping to finance Palestinian terrorism. Police allege that the organization gave millions of dollars to Hamas, a group that is responsible for numerous suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks. In one of the largest recent raids against Israeli Arabs, police took the members of the Islamic Movement into custody.

The members were arrested on suspicion that they had funneled massive amounts of money to Hamas.

About 1,000 police took part in the operation in the town of Umm el-Fahm in northern Israel.

Israel's Internal Security Minister, Tzahi Hanegbi, says the raid against the organization will help put an end to a system that he says has inflamed the bonfire of terrorism against the Jewish State.

He says the money sent to Hamas was collected by the Islamic Movement under the guise of charity for Israeli Arabs, who make up one-sixth of the country's 6.5 million citizens.

A spokesman for the Islamic Movement denied it has links to Palestinian organizations.

The arrested activists included the head of the movement's northern branch, Raed Salah.

Those arrested also included the treasurer and an accountant for the organization, which is accused of laundering millions of dollars of contributions from abroad and then funneling them to Hamas.

The funds were then allegedly used by Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, to support the families of suicide bombers and Palestinian prisoners linked to terrorism.

The Islamic Movement, the largest organization representing Arabs inside Israel, responded by urging all the country's Arabs to demonstrate against the arrests and for Muslim clerics to speak out against the raid in mosques.

The group includes some Israeli Muslims who participate in the Israeli political process and radicals who support Hamas, which is based in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas denounced the arrests as a new escalation against Muslims and Arabs.