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13 Palestinians arrested in Al-Mazra’a Al-Qibliya

** Update **
On October 31st, the Israeli army invaded Al-Mazra’a Al-Qibliya and arrested eight more people. It seems they are to be charged with exactly the same crimes the three British women formerly imprisoned were charged with. Those allegations proved to be false and the women released. More information will come as it is known.

October 27th 2007

Last night between 1am and 3am the Israeli army raided the West bank towns of Abu Shukheidim and Al-Mazra’a Al-Qibliya arresting 13 Palestinians on allegations of criminal damage and being at an illegal demonstration, they are now in Binyamin police station. In what is clearly collective punishment, the arrested include the head of the Al-Mazra’a Al-Qibliya council, a village council member and three minors. The raids follow a demonstration on Friday against the illegal annexation of agricultural lands by settlers.

The villages are surrounded by a group of settlements collectively known as Talmund B, who have illegally confiscated 14,000 dunums of Palestinian land for agricultural purposes, including 500 dunums in the last three months. Despite local Palestinians contesting the confiscation in court, the settlers have been planting grape trees in a bid to claim the land through facts on the ground.

An armed settler disturbed a protest against the land confiscation in August and settler harassment continued at Friday’s protest. Live ammunition was used by settlers against the non-violent demonstration. Two nights ago 30 to 40 adult settlers threw rocks at the village for about an hour, breaking a solar panel in the process. Last night’s arrests show how the army has chosen to ignore settler violence while collectively punishing local Palestinians for exercising their right to protest the confiscation of their property.

The arrests come the day after the release of three female British peace activists, aged 45, 60 and 62, who were held by the Israeli police on false charges of criminal damage after being present at the demonstrations on Friday . Israeli police attempted to deport them, and sent all three to the Ministry of the Interior where their case was thrown out.

While the three British women were released due to the false nature of the allegations, it is feared the prejudice inherent in the Israeli court system will ensure the Palestinians face jail time and fines, even if the allegations prove to be false.