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While War Intensifies: Ordeal In Tulkarem, Rafah

Tel-Aviv, April 2, 2003

Gush Shalom Press Release



West Bank: After mass arrests in Tulkarem more than 1000 men released but forbidden to go home;

Gaza Strip: Israeli tanks and bulldozers invade Rafah;

"A good and successful action" the commander of the Ephraim Brigade, referring on Israeli radio to the Tulkarem action.

An Israeli Army Colonel has taken public responsibility for the large-scale harassment of civilian population at Tulkarm Refugee Camp, in violation of International Law and of the Fourth Geneva Convention to which Israel is a signatory. The officer - identified on the Kol Yisrael radio only by his first name, David, and by his function as commander of the Ephraim Brigade - is at the head of the Israeli forces which today staged a massive invasion of the Tulkarm Refugee Camp, an invasion which "Colonel David" declared to be "a good and successful action, with satisfactory results".

According to an eye-witness, a Tulkarm resident - and corroborated by accounts in the Israeli and foreign press* - the Tulkarm Refugee camp was on early Wednesday morning invaded by large Israeli forces - infantry, APC's and tanks supported by helicopter gunships. The soldiers ordered all men and boys between 15 and 55 to leave their homes and concentrate at two locations in the camp - the UNRWA Girls' School and the courtyard of the Jipon Paint Factory. There they were kept for many hours and interrogated, one by one. The army detained eleven men which were said to be "wanted terrorists". The other men and boys were then loaded on buses and lorries which took them several kilometres outside Tulkarm, where they were told to get off and forbidden to go back to their homes for the coming three days. There, the army left them, with nothing but the clothes on their backs, making no provision of any kind for their thee days of enforced exile.

Inhabitants of the nearby Danabe Village, as well as of the Nur Shams Refugee Camp which is so far untouched by the army raid, tried their best to help the displaced men and boys - but being in difficult economic circumstances themselves, found it difficult to take care of so many. Meanwhile, some women of the Tulkarm Refugee Camp came to bring food and basic provisions to their husbands, brothers and sons - but then found that the soldiers would not let them back into the camp, and became displaced, too.

Gush Shalom sent tonight a letter to General Menchem Finkelstein, head of the Army's legal Department, setting out the above facts and pointing out that they constituted a violation not only of International Law but also of the IDF's own Military Code and of what the army claims are its policy guide-lines as regards treatment of civilian population. "Failure to point out to Colonel David - whose full name must be familiar to you - the grave legal and moral consequences of the acts to which he took responsibility would make yourself and the army's Legal Department share in that responsibility."

For further details: Adam Keller, 972-3-5565804 Eye-witness testimony from Tulkarm - Osama Qashoo (International Solidarity Movement) 972-52-366944 or 972-59-837611

PS: Just as were composing this message, an emergency call came from the opposite side of the Occupied Territories - Rafah in the Gaza Strip. A large Israeli Army force, accompanied by many tanks, has entered the town. Two houses are known to have been demolished already, and the army also blew up a mosque which had been severely damaged in a previous invasion. We got the news from a group of internationals of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement) who are there this night, and who are preparing to act as human shields to defend other threatened homes - undeterred by the death of Rachel Corrie, who tried to do the same in the same place two weeks ago. Over the past two years, the army has been steadily destroying houses along the border with Egypt, several each week - on the basis of the ruthless doctrine that some houses are being used by arms smugglers and that since it is not known which are the ones, it would be "better" to destroy all.


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