Israel seizes millions in raids on Arab banks

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The Independent Online

Israeli troops and secret service agents raided four Arab banks yesterday and seized $30m (£16m) in cash that they claimed had been sent by Iran, Syria and Lebanese Hizbollah militants to fund Palestinian fighters.

Israeli troops and secret service agents raided four Arab banks yesterday and seized $30m (£16m) in cash that they claimed had been sent by Iran, Syria and Lebanese Hizbollah militants to fund Palestinian fighters.

The goal of this unprecedented operation in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, a government spokesman said, was "to impede the terrorist organisations' activities and reduce their financial capabilities". He said there was a direct link between the channelling of funds and the number of attacks.

The raid was directed by the Shin Bet security service, which checked hundreds of accounts with the help of bank computer staff arrested the night before. Agents took the money from the vaults, corresponding to the sums they identified in the accounts. They said the deposits belonged to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and what the Israelis termed "senior terrorists and their families who received funds designated for financing terrorism". Officials said the raiders were also seeking evidence that Yasser Arafat was involved in funding attacks.

Earlier this week, Palestinian officials had confirmed that Hizbollah had helped fund two bus bombings in Jerusalem, which killed 19 Israelis. A militia affiliated to Mr Arafat's Al Fatah acknowledged responsibility for both explosions.

Israel said it will donate the confiscated money to Palestinian humanitarian relief projects.

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