Israel launches new crackdown on Hamas fighters

Israel has launched a sweeping crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the militant group that governs parts of the Gaza Strip, and announced it was cracking down on its members.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday issued a directive to his security forces to crack down on suspected Hamas members and sympathizers, a move that drew criticism from the United States, which considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

The directive came as Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was in the midst of a visit to the United Arab Emirates, where he is expected to make a rare visit.

The Israeli military said he will hold talks with the Emirati leader.

In a statement Friday, the IDF said it has cracked down on “Hamas members and their sympathizers” and detained three Hamas operatives and two civilians, including a 16-year-old girl.

The military said it detained three individuals in connection with the Hamas-affiliated “Lebanon Brigade” group, which was responsible for the attack in the Gaza City Strip last month that killed nine Israelis.

Netanyahu announced on Friday that he is cracking down to “stop Hamas infiltrators from entering Israel.”

He added that Hamas had been planning an attack against Israeli civilians in the West Bank.

Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, said on its official website that it had carried out the July 15 attack in which it killed a dozen people, including six children, at a bus station in Gaza City.

The group blamed the attack on the military.

The Gaza Strip is the most densely populated in the Middle East.

It is home to some 8 million Palestinians and another 4.6 million Israelis, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The new order does not specify the number of Hamas members or the number who have been arrested, and the IDF does not disclose how many people have been detained or how many arrests have been made.

The order, which takes effect on Friday, requires security forces and prosecutors to carry out the orders, and they must immediately report the findings to the Shin Bet security service, which oversees the security services.

It also requires security officials to report to the cabinet if they suspect that members or sympathizers have been involved in terrorist activities.

The orders do not specify how long the measures must last or if they are conditional on the arrest of Hamas operatives.