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Top Hamas Leader Ordered Released

September 27, 1999

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ A Palestinian court ordered the release Monday of a top member of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

The court ordered police to free Abdel Aziz Rantisi, arrested a month ago during a crackdown on Islamic militants. Relatives at his family home said Monday evening he had not arrived yet.

Rantisi has been arrested by the Palestinian Authority several times, and once spent 15 months in jail without being charged. The arrests usually come during sweeps following suicide attacks in Israel.

Hamas officials believe Rantisi was arrested for making media statements affirming the group’s policy to continue armed struggle against Israel.

Such arrests are part of the security obligation required of the Palestinian Authority in the land-for-security agreement with Israel. Hamas opposes the peace process and calls for the destruction of Israel.

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