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EU diplomats say IDF manhandled them in West Bank, violated humanitarian law
ByJPOST.COM STAFF, REUTERS
September 20, 2013 19:07
IDF stops Palestinians from rebuilding razed West Bank village of Khirbet Al-Makhul, demolished earlier this week.
IDF soldiers detain Palestinian in Jordan Valley, September 20, 2013

IDF soldiers detain Palestinian in Jordan Valley 370. (photo credit:REUTERS)

IDF soldiers clashed with Palestinians and foreign activists attempting to raise a makeshift tent encampment near Hamdat in the northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank on Friday.

The IDF called the incident a "disturbance of the peace," and a provocation," while European diplomats said they were "manhandled" and illegally prevented from delivering humanitarian aid to Palestinians by the IDF.



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Homes in the Palestinian Beduin community of Khirbet Al-Makhul were originally demolished earlier this week after the High Court of Justice ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

The IDF prevented activists from putting up new tents on Friday and confiscated equipment used to raise the makeshift settlement.

The IDF spokesman's office said that security forces encountered rock throwing and used riot dispersal methods in handling the incident. Three Palestinians were arrested and the area was declared a closed military zone.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.

"They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity," French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

French diplomat Marion Castaing lays on the ground after Israeli soldiers carried her out of her truck (Reuters)

"This is how international law is being respected here," she said, covered with dust.

The IDF stated that "reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities."

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after the High Court ruling.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

A spokesman at the British Consulate General in Jerusalem said London was "seriously concerned" by the Makhul demolitions and by the subsequent refusal to let villagers receive aid.

IDF soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday. IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union's political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen IDF jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

IDF soldiers pull a Palestinian off a truck loaded with items European diplomats wanted to deliver to locals in the West Bank (Reuters)

"It's shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments," said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.

"(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren't being protected," he said.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Beduin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

"What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they're obligated to respect international law," the unnamed EU diplomat said.
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  • Palestinians
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