5 Killed, Hundreds Detained, Universities, Media Centers and Community Organizations Raided as Israel Continues Brutal Assault on Occupied Palestine
Israel has been conducting a massive offensive on the West Bank and Gaza since June 13, when 3 Israeli settlers went missing from the Etzion settlement block overnight. While Israeli media and politicians continue to insist publicly that the offensive is directed at Hamas, who it claims is responsible for the disappearance, the actions of the Israeli Forces suggest a very different agenda.
Five Killed in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus Districts
Israel has said that while the operation (dubbed Operation Brother’s Keeper) is focused on searching for the missing settlers in the Hebron District, from the fist day of the offensive they have used massive force against Palestinian civilians in all districts of the West Bank. On June 16, Israeli forces killed 20 year-old Ahmed Sabarin in Jalazoun refugee camp outside of Ramallah. On Friday, June 20, 14 year-old Mohammed Dudin was killed in Dura, a village in the Hebron District and 22 year-old Mustafa Aslan was killed in Qalandiya Refugee Camp (Ramallah District) in early morning raids. On Sunday, June 22, again in early morning raids, a mentally disabled man, Ahmed Soud Khalid, 27 was killed in Al Ain Refugee Camp (Nablus District) and Mahmoud Ismail Tarifi, 30, from Beituniya (Ramallah) was shot and left to bleed to death on a building rood, his body found only after daylight.
Israel has not claimed that any of those killed, or indeed any of the more than 400 arrested, were in any way related to the disappearance of the Israeli teens. In fact, even as Israel has claimed that their assault is targeting Hamas to “pressure” them into revealing information about the location and fate of the missing teens, there has been no indication that they have obtained such information. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have continued a campaign of mass arrests, closures, and raids on civil organizations.
More than 400 Arrested, Widespread Torture Suspected
As of June 23, more than 400 Palestinians have been arrested. Israel announced early in the operation that they would be enacting a “ticking time bomb” provision that they claim allows them to use otherwise prohibited ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’. Most of those detained have not been able to contact lawyers, and while many have been put in administrative detention, information on those detained has been difficult to access.
While a wide range of media outlets, from mainstream to left-leaning, have focused on Hebron as the focus of the operation, it is critical to note that the Israeli forces have been detaining people from as far away as Jenin, Ramallah and Nablus since the beginning of the operation. For example, yesterday, June 22, 4 women from Taybeh, a largely Christian villages in the Ramallah district, were arrested by Israeli forces.
Homes, Offices, Universities Raided
Israeli forces have raided over 1000 homes across the West Bank, exacting enormous amounts of damage to personal property and thousands of Israeli Shekels “confiscated”. These home raids have occurred in Hebron (and almost all surrounding villages) Ramallah, Salfit, Nablus (and numerous surrounding villages), Betlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, as well as nearly all of the major refugee camps in the Nablus, Ramallah, Betlehem and Hebron Districts, including Balata, Al Ain, Jalazoun, Qalandiya, Al Amari, Deheishe, Aida, al Arroub and al Fawwar. Community centers, most of them associated with the Palestinian leftist political parties, have been raided and their computers, cash, and other valuable materials taken. Several Orphan charities, including those in Hebron, Halhul, Yatta, and Beit Ommar, which provide special packages for children who have lost their fathers during Ramadan, were raided and all of their computers confiscated On Sunday, June 22, during raids in the heart of Ramallah, Israeli forces raided the offices of several media outlets, including Al Jazeera, Russia Today Arabic, and Palestine TV, and “confiscated” the computers and servers of the publishers of the magazine “This Week in Palestine” which lists cultural and entertainment events for the week in the OPT.
Israeli forces also invaded numerous universities including Birzeit (Ramallah District), Arab American University (Jenin), Polytechnic University (Hebron), Al Ahlyi University (Betlehem) and Al Quds University in East Jerusalem. During the overnight raid of Birzeit University, Israeli forces detained the security guards of the university while tear gassing the campus and attempting to arrest students, while “confiscating” Hamas flags.
Random Closures Across West Bank
Israeli forces have been randomly closing checkpoints across the West Bank. While they and their supporters claim this is necessary to conduct a search for the missing settlers, the actual closures suggest that this is not in fact the primary aim. On the day the search began and for 24 hours after they were declared missing, the Hebron District was not on a total closure, contrary to Israel’s own reports. Traffic was still being allowed into and out of Hebron city through at least one entrance, and traffic moved relatively freely north to Betlehem. The areas directly adjacent to Gush Etzion, where the kidnapping took place, were also remarkably absent a major military presence. Some western Hebron villages were closed from the main roads, and some, including Idhna and Dura, have been closed for the last 10 days. Meanwhile, Israel quickly closed several checkpoints in the Nablus District and prevented Palestinians carrying IDs that indicated they were from the Hebron District from crossing Container Checkpoint (the way to Ramallah and all points north of Jerusalem) and crossing into Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. These closures have been sporadically implemented, creating confusion and uncertainty amongst the Palestinian population but not effective as an actual security tool.
Additionally, some entrances to Betlehem have been closed, including those at Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, villages with large Christian populations and not considered Hamas strongholds. Again, the closures seem to be intended to create inconvenience and delay, as opposed to an actual closure aimed at creating a search cordon.
It is Clear This is Not About Missing Teens, or Even Hamas
Israel has engaged in a 10 day massive crackdown not seen on this scale since the second intifada, and yet the international media, besides a few focus pieces on the missing teens, has largely ignored it. The timing of the operation is suspicious. Israel was relying on the U.S. to refuse to work with a unified Palestinian government that formed last month because of Hamas’ participation, yet the U.S. affirmed just weeks before the current assault that they would not boycott the new Palestinian government. Major advances in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement and Palestinians’ inclusion in UN treaties have all put pressure on Israel, who have lost serious public credibility even within mainstream public opinion due to their intransigence in the so-called peace process. While Israel has admitted that parts of this operation were planned ahead of time, it is clear to those on the ground that in fact the entire operation, far from a search for lost teens, is an Israeli gambit to assert its authority over the West Bank, remind the PA of its impotence, and provoke Palestinian civilians into clashes, leading Israel to use even more violence and repression.
**Photo from Activestills