Israel detains 24 Palestinians as settler violence escalates

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A Palestinian child runs for cover as an Israeli military vehicle (background) sprays a foul-smelling spray known as "skunk" in the village of Kafr Qaddum, near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, on December 5, 2014. AFP / Jaafar Ashtiyeh

Published Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Israeli army detained 24 Palestinians in West Bank’s southern provinces of al-Khalil and Bethlehem on Sunday, a day after Israeli settlers killed a Palestinian worker in the Nablus district in Occupied Palestine.

"The Israeli army arrested 11 Palestinians from several areas around al-Khalil in southern West Bank after raiding and searching their houses, claiming that they're wanted [for the Israeli authorities]," the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, a Palestinian NGO, said in a statement.

Israeli troops also detained three youths from a town west of Bethlehem under the same pretext, a Bethlehem-based security source told Anadolu news agency.

Moreover, Israeli troops on Sunday detained a young Palestinian woman, suspect of attempting to attack soldiers at an Israeli military checkpoint east of Bethlehem, Israeli media reported.

According to a report on the Israeli news site 0404, the Israeli army received information about a young Palestinian woman planning to attack troops at the Mazmoriya checkpoint near the village of al-Numan.

The checkpoint is on a bypass road which links Israeli settlements east of Bethlehem with the illegal settlement of Har Homa.

A man who was driving the car the young woman was in was also detained for interrogation, the report said.

The report said a domestic-use gas canister was found in the car.

An Israeli army spokeswoman confirmed that a woman was arrested at the checkpoint, saying Israeli forces had received information that she was planning "some kind of attack," without providing further details.

The Israeli army said that four “Hamas” activists and four stone-throwers were also arrested and transferred to detainment facilities for questioning.

The Israeli cabinet approved early November a new legislation which will be added to the Israeli penal code and would allow the imposition of a prison sentence up to 20 years for those convicted of throwing stones or other objects at Israeli vehicles.

Israeli forces routinely conduct detention campaigns against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank on claims that they are "wanted" by Israeli authorities.

2014 "the most difficult year" for prisoners

The series of arrests came a day after Islamic Jihad prisoners in Israeli jails said that they would go on an open hunger strike if Israeli authorities did not respond to the demands of a prisoner who has been refusing meals for over two weeks.

Nahar al-Saadi, 33, has been on hunger strike for 16 days in protest of being banned from receiving family visits and being held in solitary confinement, the Palestinian Prisoner's Center for Studies said in a statement.

Islamic Jihad prisoners said they would go on open hunger strike if prison authorities did not respond to al-Saadi's demands by Sunday, according to the Center's statement.

Former prisoner Rafat Hamduna, the director of the rights group, said that Israeli violations against prisoners have escalated recently, with an increase in prisoner transfers, solitary confinement, banning visits, medical neglect, collective punishment, room raids, and confiscation of personal belongings.

Hamduna called on "humanitarian groups and organizations to pressure Israel to stop its racist actions against prisoners."

Earlier Saturday, Issa Qaraqe, the head of the Palestinian Authority Department of Prisoner Affairs, said that 2014 has been "the most difficult year" for prisoners, during a visit in Ramallah to freed prisoner Muhannad Jaradat, who spent five years in Israeli jails.

Qaraqe said in a statement that prisoners in 2014 have been victims of "Israeli revenge policies,” adding that Israel's move to re-arrest prisoners who were released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in 2011 was a dangerous political action

Qaraqe also decried Israel's policy of detaining minors, saying some 1,500 minors were detained in 2014, mostly in Jerusalem.

According to Qaraqe, there were 550 new Palestinian prisoners held under administrative detention without charge or trial this year, and that Israel renewed administrative detention orders for 63 percent of administrative prisoners.

"Next year is the year of the legal, humanitarian battle for defending prisoners' rights and dignities," Qaraqe said, without elaborating.

Over 7,000 Palestinians are currently languishing in 17 Israeli prisons and detention camps, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs.

Among Palestinian prisoners behind Israeli bars, there are 18 women, 250 children, 1,500 sick detainees, who are mostly in a critical condition, and 540 Palestinians held under administrative detention without any trial.

Settler violence

Meanwhile, a Palestinian worker in Nablus district in Occupied Palestine was killed Saturday when unidentified gunmen opened fire at him, a local official said.

Kathem Ramadan Sami Odeh, 25, was killed when three unidentified gunmen attacked a workers' apartment in the town of Qalansuwa, head of Odeh's hometown village council told Ma'an news agency.

Abdel-Azim al-Wadiya, head of the village council of Qusra in Nablus district, said two bullets hit Odeh in the stomach and one hit him in the neck.

Other workers in the apartment at the time managed to escape after being "assaulted" by the gunmen, al-Wadiya said, without providing further details.

The motives behind the shooting remain unclear.

Odeh's body is being held in the Abu Kabir Forensic Institute in Tel Aviv, where an autopsy will take place, al-Wadiya said.

An Israeli police spokesman did not return calls seeking comment on Saturday.

Hate crimes by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their property, referred to as “price tag” attacks, are systematic and often abetted by Israeli authorities, who rarely intervene in the violent attacks or prosecute the perpetrators.

In 2013, there were 399 incidents of settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

More than 600,000 Israeli settlers, soaring from 189,000 in 1989, live in settlements across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, in contravention of international law.

On Friday, settlers cut down over 50 olive trees in the Nablus village of Aqraba, Palestinian official Ghassan Daghlas said.

Settlers from Elon Moreh, located east of Nablus, attacked Aqraba and cut down 50 olive trees from the Juhr al-Dik area of the village.

The trees belonged to Said Bani Jame.

Several other trees were damaged during the attack, Daghlas added.

The villagers have filed an official complaint to Israeli authorities through the Palestinian liaison office.

According to a 2012 report on Israeli settler violence released by the Palestine Center, a Washington-based nonprofit, every year the olive harvest period sees the highest peak in attacks on Palestinian civilians and property.

UN figures show that since the start of the year, around 7,500 trees have been damaged or uprooted across the West Bank.

The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict date back to 1917, when the British government, in the now-famous Balfour Declaration, called for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."

Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East War. It later annexed the holy city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Zionist state – a move never recognized by the international community.

(Ma’an, Al-Akhbar, Anadolu)

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