35 right-wingers arrested in Jericho

Activists evacuated from ancient synagogue after illegally entering city.

February 22, 2010 00:10
3 minute read.
An IDF soldier inspects a Palestinian vehicle at t

An IDF soldier inspects a Palestinian vehicle at t. (photo credit: AP)


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Security personnel arrested 35 right-wing activists who had illegally entered Jericho on Sunday night, prayed at the ancient Na’aran synagogue and placed an Israeli flag on its roof.

Two women and some minors were among those arrested.

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They were part of a larger group of 80 activists, including MK Michael Ari (National Union), his spokesman, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Baruch Marzel.

The other 45 activists tried to make their way to the abandoned Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue, also in Jericho, but the IDF blocked their path. Eventually the group gave up and left the city.

Ben-Gvir told The Jerusalem Post that the first group entered Jericho on the anniversary of Moses’s death, 7 Adar, to initiate a new drive to reclaim the city, which has been ruled by the Palestinian Authority since 1994. It has been off limits to Israelis since the start of the second intifada in late 2000.

On Sunday, right-wing activists vowed to changed all that.

“The time has come to get rid of Oslo,” Ben-Ari told supporters in Jericho, referring to the 1993 Oslo Accords, which placed portions of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control.

Jews should be able to freely access the city and if the IDF wants “to evacuate anyone, they should start with the Arabs,” Ben-Gvir said.

The commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade, Col. Yochai Ben-Yishai, said the illegal entrance of right-wing activists into Jericho was a “totally unnecessary provocation that risked lives.”

Ben-Yishai added that the army permitted visitors to enter the city if they coordinated it ahead of time.

“That’s why I don’t understand why they went in like this and risked lives,” he said.

In the early evening, activists walked into Jericho from the Mavuot Jericho outpost.

According to the activists, they were able to elude the IDF and enter Jericho by going through back ways. They were then spotted by security personnel, who tried to stop them. When that failed, the soldiers opted instead to protect them.

In describing the initial interaction with activists, Ben-Yishai said, “They [the activists] were a little violent. They ran off in every direction.”

The army found itself outnumbered, and its attempts to stop the procession failed.

“My officers accompanied them to ensure there would be no confrontations [with Arabs], while we requested that a larger security force be mobilized to assist us,” Ben-Yishai said.

“We asked the Palestinian Police, via the IDF civil administration, not to intervene, to avoid clashes,” he added.

In the interim, about 35 activists walked just under a kilometer to the Na’aran synagogue in Jericho.

At the abandoned synagogue, they set up an Israeli flag on the roof. Inside, they prayed, and danced to music from a cellphone, amplified by a megaphone.

After about an hour, the IDF surrounded the building and began pulling out the protesters, one by one. The soldiers put them into a bullet-proof bus.

Yoni Gormezano, from Petah Tikva, said that he and others in the synagogue had sat on the ground and refused to leave. Soldiers picked them up and dragged them out, he said.

The “soldiers used a lot of violence,” and he himself was “dragged by his hands,” Gormezano said.

A female Border Police officer was struck on the shoulder by an activist resisting the evacuation, suffering a light injury, and an army officer’s vehicle was vandalized during the incident.

Ben-Yishai said claims that his soldiers had acted violently toward the activists “would be checked.”

All of those arrested, including Gormezano, were taken to the police station in Ma’aleh Adumim for questioning. They are accused of illegally entering Area A, which is controlled by the PA.

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