by ISM Hebron, December 26th
Two international volunteers were illegally detained for over four hours this morning. They were performing a routine visit to Qurtuba School to accompany Palestinian schoolchildren, who face physical violence and harrassment from settler-colonists.
The two volunteers, from South Africa and Spain, were accused of entering a house that was a Closed Military Zone according to the soldiers, although they failed to produce the necessary documentation. The home, now deserted, was once occupied by a Palestinian family that has since left due to the constant and unbearable harassment and abuse by settlers.
The home had been heavily defaced and marked with graffiti. This home is Palestinian property and the volunteers had no idea that this home was ‘out of bounds’.
The soldier that detained them at first, radioed for his superior who arrived almost an hour later and released the volunteers. He did this after inspecting their camera and advising the volunteers not to wander into the abandoned homes.
A few minutes later, the volunteers were detained individually at two separate checkpoints. The reason given for the subsequent detention was, “we were ordered to hold you until our superiors arrive to interrogate you!” It is highly unusual for IOF soldiers to detain foreign nationals as this is usually the responsibility of the police. In this case the police drove past but showed no interest in the incident.
After three hours, a senior army official arrived on the scene but quickly dismissed what was clearly an illegal detention by soldiers. However, the soldiers at the scene only released them an hour later. The volunteers felt that this was just a tactic by the soldiers to discourage them from coming to assist Palestinians living in the area. The cold today made the ordeal even worse for them. But as they said, “This was a lousy experience, but what the Palestinians go through day after day is really awful and much worse.”
Today’s illegal detention is merely the latest example of harrassment by Israeli forces of human rights defenders (HRDs) in Tel Rumeida, stretching back nearly two years when an international presence was first established in Tel Rumeida. On December 17th an Australian HRD was held for four hours whilst settlers trespassed Palestinian land, and a month ago Amnesty International highlighted the risks HRDs face from attack by settlers and the lack of action by Israeli forces.