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International Solidarity Movement - Update

International Solidarity Movement - Update

1. IOF target Bilin non-violent activist 2. Nablus village schoolchildren terrorized by IOF 3. Police Target Tel Aviv Anti-Occupation Rally 4. Witness to checkpoint abuse "punished" by IOF 5. Israel refuses visa extensions for foreign passport holders 6. Sabatash checkpoint closed indefinitely 7. Settler attack in Urif - Israeli police do nothing 8. Azzun 'Atma Farmer Resists Land Annexation

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1. IOF target Bilin non-violent activist

by the ISM media team, December 8th

UPDATE 7pm Ahmed has been taken from the police station to Ofer military detention centre. He has been accused of damaging the illegal apartheid wall, resisting arrest and being in a Closed Military Zone.

At today's peaceful demo against the illegal apartheid wall in Bil'in the IOF assaulted and abducted Bil'in peace activist Ahmed Abu Hasssan, 34. Ahmed was attacked by 10 soldiers as he pulled at a razor wire fence that forms part of the illegal wall regime in Bil'in. Female activists who came to his aid were beaten and had their hair pulled by the soldiers. Ahmed was dragged away by soldiers holding him by the scruff of the neck and was then blindfolded. Bil'in residents are targeted every week for arrest due to their role in highlighting the apartheid Israeli occupation.

As protesters marched to the gate in the wall soldiers were occupying the house of a Bilin resident and standing on the roof. After singing and chanting at the gate, some demonstrators protested with banners and flags along the route of the wall whilst others pulled on the razor wire. This led to an immediate display of military force and Ahmed's arrest.

UN observers and the director of Amnesty International Irene Khan were present in the village during the demonstration and did interviews with villagers and non-violent activists about the Occupation land theft in Bil'in and repression of local residents. Ahmed is only the latest in a long line of Bil'in residents to be abducted and held by the IOF.


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2. Nablus village schoolchildren terrorized by IOF

by aspiringnomad, December 3rd

On Tuesday a group of six human rights activists travelled to the small vallage of Sarra, west of Nablus, in response to a plea from a local school headmaster about Israeli army harassment of schoolchildren. According to countless eyewitness reports, during the last week an Israeli military Humvee would arrive in front of the school as the children were coming out, and proceed to let off sound bombs, tear gas and fire rubber bullets. However, the previous day the Humvee had arrived earlier and stayed for 4 hours between 10am and 2pm.

During the documentation of these harrowing witness statements a message arrived that the Humvee had just appeared at the gates of the girls school across the street. The six activists immediately went to the scene in order to ascertain the Israeli army's motives and also to document any further harassment.

On seeing the approaching activists the soldiers quickly jumped into their Humvee and sped towards the centre of town at high speed. Three activists pursued the vehicle whilst the others stayed back at the entrance to the school.

As the activists caught up with the Humvee it proceeded to double back towards the school. It then stopped beside two activists and an Israeli soldier asked the reason for our presence. When the same question was asked of the soldier it was met with a cynical smile before he slammed the door, and the humvee drove into town, stopping only to throw a tear gas canister at some schoolchildren and fire a volley of bullets into the air before driving away.

After the Humvee's departure, a call was made to the DCO (District Coordination Office - the civil administration wing of the Israeli military in the occupied West Bank) making them aware of what was happening, after which the activists remained for a further two hours.

Sarra is a typical small village that relies on agriculture for its income. Therefore the Israeli army's military presence, and their subsequent behaviour can only be seen as a means to harass, humiliate and terrorize the residents.

The following day the activists returned to Sarra, but fortunately the Humvee didn't return. More data was collected on Israeli army harassment that had occurred over the previous month, which included several late night visits by the army, who raided homes.

Almost a week after the initial presence of the activists at the scene, the military has yet to return to sarra.

For photo see: www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/12/03/sarra-school-terror/

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3. Police Target Tel Aviv Anti-Occupation Rally

by aspiringnomad, December 4th

In Tel Aviv on Saturday, a peaceful rally of several hundred people demonstrating at the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine and the recent Beit Hanoun massacre was marred by the arrest of a 20-year old Israeli peace activist.

The rally began peacefully with the predominantly Israeli contingent creating a convivial atmosphere with drums and whistles as they marched to Rabin Square. Apart from a few missiles thrown by occupants of overlooking apartments and the odd heckle from angry passers-by, the rally demonstrated none of the hostility common to similar such rallies in the occupied territories due to the absence of a confrontational Israeli military presence.

The arrest occurred when a demonstrator attempted to attach an anti-war bumper sticker to the window of a McDonald's restaurant. The police reacted to this by flinging the female demonstrator to the ground. Another demonstrator who came to her aid was subsequently beaten and apprehended by upwards of a dozen police.

Police at the scene alleged the protester had tried to break a glass window of the MacDonald's branch and had assaulted an officer with a flag pole he was holding.

However, eye witnesses refute these grounds for arrest, backed up by video footage disproving the police's version of events and furthermore showing excessive police violence during the protester's arrest.

The arrested activist from Nahariya, sustained a black eye and head injuries in the course of his arrest. Onlookers and marchers alike were shocked at this display of police force, unused as they are to the daily violence meted out by the IOF in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

For photos see: www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/12/04/telaviv-02-12/

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4. Witness to checkpoint abuse "punished" by IOF

by aspiringnomad December 5th

On Saturday at 4pm a human rights worker based in Nablus received a call from some fellow HRWs at Huwwara checkpoint, that hundreds of Palestinians including a mother with a sick child weren't being allowed through after the checkpoint had been closed.

When the HRW arrived there were hundreds of people waiting to pass through the illegal Israeli checkpoint. A middle aged woman was pleading with soldiers to be able to pass as she was cradling a sick child who required treatment.

The HRWs attempted to ask the Israeli soldiers the reason for the closure and whether it would be possible for the women and child to pass through, but his pleas were met with stony silence. After further inquiries, the soldiers informed the HRW that if he didn't go away he would be "punished". The woman continued to remonstrate with the soldiers in the presence the HRW, at which point the soldiers wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him.

During the arrest the HRW was lighly injured and his camera was damaged. He was then detained in a small holding cell for an hour before being taken to Ariel settlement police station where he was questioned and detained for a further 4 hours.

Police claimed that the HRW had struck one of the soldiers and asked him to sign a document promising never to visit Nablus again. The aggrieved HRW refused, pleading wrongful arrest and physical abuse. He was then asked to sign a document promising not to argue with Israeli soldiers at Huwwara checkpoint for a period of 15 days, before being released without charge at approximately 10pm.

Huwwara checkpoint is notorious for long unexplained closures, which have become more common of late. In the last few weeks Palestinians have had to spend up to 2 hours waiting to pass through. As well as Huwwara checkpoint, Palestinians have to travel through other permanent and temporary checkpoints on their way to Ramallah, resulting in journey times of up to 5 hours for a journey of 20 miles, if they are allowed through them.

There are currently 72 permanent military checkpoints throughout the West Bank along with at least 25 temporary and flying checkpoints set up randomly by Israeli occupying forces.

Checkpoints can be a major deterrent for Palestinians on any road because of the extensive delays, security searches, as well as physical and psychological abuse by Israeli soldiers.

The checkpoints and Israel's closure policy are often used as a means of enforcing collective punishment on the inhabitants of a certain area, or even the entire population of the Occupied Palestinian Territories .Collective punishment is illegal under international law.

The system of Israeli checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories violates international humanitarian law as codified in the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

For photos see : www.palsolidarity.org/main/2006/12/05/witness-to-checkpoint-abuse-punished-by-iof/

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5. Israel refuses visa extensions for foreign passport holders

Right to Entry, December 5th www.righttoenter.ps/

In a new escalation of Israel's policy of denying Palestinians and their families access to the Israeli occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), the Israeli Civil Administration at Beit El is refusing to accept at least 140 passports for visa extensions. The passport holders are mostly spouses and children of Palestinian I.D.-holders and are residing in the oPt. Many of them have been forced to become "illegal" since their visitor visas have expired while waiting to be renewed by Israel.

Twenty-seven year old Subha G is one of these cases. Her mother, brothers and her husband all have Palestinian IDs, but her request for family reunification has been frozen since 1997. "I am seven months pregnant and I am afraid of leaving to renew my visa and becoming stranded outside the country. My whole family is here." Subha said.

Palestinian I.D.s can only be issued by Israel. Since Israel is refusing to process an estimated 120,000 family unification residency applications of spouses and children of Palestinians, foreign family members must renew their visa every three months. All foreign spouses and children of Palestinians who requested visa extensions in October had their passports returned from Beit El on November 19th stamped "Last permit." The passport holders are required to leave the country before their visas expire, which in some cases occurred during Israel's processing of the visa extension application. Israeli authorities are regularly denying entry to family members of Palestinians when they attempt to cross the Israeli controlled borders to the Israeli oPt.

Soha N., French citizen, lives in Beit Jala with her Palestinian husband and their two children, ages six and eight years old. The Israeli authorities refuse to issue residency to Soha and her children. Therefore, they have been renewing their visas every three months. After applying in October for another visa extension, they received their passports back marked "last permit." Soha's final extension lasts until December 25th. Israeli authorities required her two children to leave by December 4th. The family may now be forced to relocate abroad, as their children are now considered "illegal" after overstaying their visas.

Shlomo Dror, spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Administration states that those foreign passport holders with family in the oPt who stay illegally in the country, should expect "tough consequences". "Israel is working overtime to create a demographic change in the oPt by targeting the most vulnerable segment of Palestinian society, denying them residency and forcing them to leave," said Basil Ayish, a spokesperson from the Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry to the oPt. "Palestinian residency holders are likely to follow their spouses and children to another country in order to stay together,"Ayish explained.

Contact: Basil Ayish Coordinator, Media Committee (c) +970-(0)59-817-3953 (email) info@righttoenter.ps

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6. Sabatash checkpoint closed indefinitely

by ISM Nablus, December 5th

The checkpoint commonly known as "Sabatash", named after the Palestinian security forces that used to maintain a presence there, has been closed indefinitely for all civilian traffic bar humanitarian transportation such as ambulances and medical supply deliveries. This turn of events was suddenly announced a little more than two weeks ago to the residents of Asira Ash-Shamalia, located on the far side of the checkpoint from Nablus city.

The checkpoint is located in a sharp bend in the main road to Nablus; a thoroughfare used daily by- and crucial to university students and workers. It has developed from a makeshift checkpoint consisting of a muddy trench and a few cement blocks to a permanent terminal with a watchtower, walls and two vehicle lanes. Palestinians have been humiliated, stripsearched, made to stand in a meter of cold ditch-water, beaten and shot here every day since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa intifada. Although notorious for its extremely violent soldiers, the checkpoint has still been the preferred route for most Palestinians, as walking around over the mountains is even more treacherous. If spotted by Israeli soldiers, one runs the risk of being shot or detained for many hours.

One villager was detained by soldiers a rainy winter day a couple of years ago. He can hardly hold back his tears as he tells the story of how he ventured over the mountains in order to buy warm winter clothes for his son. On his way back, soldiers ambushed him from behind some bushes, very nearly shooting him dead. After making sure that he was not carrying any explosives, the soldiers calmed down and their commander started talking politics for over three hours, all the time in a civil manner. All of a sudden, the commander's attitude changed and he ordered the man to be handcuffed. The soldiers then proceeded to beat, spit and pee on the man as he lay defenceless on the ground. The commander ordered the Palestinian man to undress, produced a video camera and told the man that he would be let go if he said on tape that he is a dirty Palestinian who does not deserve to live, to breathe oxygen or to drink water.

The man agreed to testify on tape and, shivering in the cold, proclaimed that "I am proud to be Palestinian and to be walking home to my family in my village breathing my air. I was under the impression that you were a civil man, commander, but I am afraid I was mistaken for you have lost your humanity and therefore lost everything." The commander then attacked him, thrusting the butt of his rifle into the man's naked stomach. The man was then forced to lie down on the ground with his head ten centimeters away from the chains of the tank. Revving the motor, the commander explained to the man that they will now run him over. The Palestinian man asked for one last favour before he was to be killed - for the soldiers to deliver the warm clothes to his son and wife. The soldiers then took the clothes and burned them in front of the man as he lay naked on the ground.

After more than 12 hours of humiliation, the soldiers pushed the handcuffed man down a steep slope, cutting his skin on thorns and rocks. Nearby villagers rushed out to take care of him as the soldiers left and he eventually returned home, with both arms broken. This is but one horrific story out of many experienced by the citizens of Asira Ash-Shamalia. About one month ago, 25-year old Haithem was shot with live ammunition at close range for daring to protest against the soldiers' treatment of a group of young women at the checkpoint - forcing them to run their hands tight along their own bodies. He is still in hospital being treated for the wounds sustained that night.

Now, the checkpoint has been closed indefinitely. Instead, the villagers are forced to travel in a 40km arc around the checkpoint to get to Nablus. Flying checkpoints are set up by Israeli military along this road, meaning the journey can take anything from 40 minutes to several hours. Despite contacting various human rights organizations, legal experts and military commanders, the villagers have not been able to find out why the road has been closed.

It could be an incidence of collective punishment due to the village's successful olive harvest campaign. A committee of ten dedicated villagers spent the autumn months encouraging villagers to tend to their lands, even those close to the nearby military base and to stand their ground in case of confrontation with the military - "just try to have a calm logical conversation with the soldiers. The words will come naturally to you. After all, it is your land!" They also organized the removal of close to one hundred roadblocks scattered within and around the village, so as to allow for the passage of tractors and other heavy equipment needed during the harvest.

Greatly empowered by the committee's work, the people of Asira Ash-Shamalia have this year harvested olives from land that has lain idle since the beginning of the first intifada. Furthermore, there has been a revival of old harvesting traditions, with young and old congregating in the fields to work, sing and eat together. In the past, a couple of adults from each family used to sneak to their fields and hurriedly pick as many olives as they dare before rushing home - almost as if "stealing" their own olives. This year, the harvest has been an open, joyous event, despite repression in the form of teargas and gunfire from soldiers manning the military base on the mountain Ebal.

The Israeli military have tried all sorts of measures to control the village's newfound sense of self-determination. In the evenings, they would come and try to grab individual villagers from the olive press factories. After wrestling men to the ground and dragging them out of the building, the soldiers were forced to see themselves defeated as villager after villager struggled to get free and returned to the press. Whatever the reason for the sudden and unexplained closure of Sabatash checkpoint, this will not quench the spirit of resistance and invention in Asira Ash-Shamalia.

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7. Settler attack in Urif - Israeli police do nothing

by ISM Nablus, December 5th

On Sunday the 4th of December, a group of Israeli residents of Yitzhar colony attacked farmers from Urif, a small village south of Nablus, while they were harvesting their olives on land adjacent to the village itself. This area is not normally considered to be a high-risk area due to its close proximity to Palestinian houses but this did not deter the colonists who, brandishing rocks and sticks, proceeded to yell insults and chase the olive pickers down the hill. Fortunately, no injuries were sustained.

Israeli police were not present as the area is, as mentioned, not considered a security priority. On Monday, there were also no police in the area despite the recent attack but two solidarity workers - one international from ISM and the Palestinian coordinator for Rabbis for Human Rights - accompanied the families to their fields. Visibly frightened, the farmers flinched and started rolling up their tarpaulins at the slightest sight of the Israeli colonists patrolling the perimeter of Yitzhar at the top of the hill. Luckily, the day's work proceeded without incident and the villagers estimate that they will have finished harvesting in a few days.

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8. Azzun 'Atma Farmer Resists Land Annexation

by the ISM media team, December 6th

Azzun 'Atma farmer Sameh Yousef scored a small victory in his struggle against the theft of his land today when the IOF pledged to erect a fence on the edge of his field rather than 15 metres inside it. The IOF is constructing a second wall around the village of Azzun 'Atma, 2 kms from the Green Line between the Israeli colonies of Sha'are Tikva and Oranit.

The IOF originally intended to ghettoize Sameh's land by building a fence on its edge beside a colonialist road, but yesterday construction workers accompanied by soldiers appeared and began digging up his field 15 metres from the road. Sameh grows potatoes and corn on this land. Sameh protested as he had been previously assured the destruction would take place on the edge of his land. When 2 local human rights workers arrived they were threatened with arrest and the confiscation of their photographic equipment. Despite a 100-metre strip of topsoil and crops having been excavated and dumped beside the road Sameh was determined not to accept the loss of 27 dunums of his land and asked HRWs to accompany him the following day to non-violently resist this land theft.

Early this morning Sameh arrived at the scene with his two children and 8 HRWs, shortly before the arrival of the construction workers accompanied by the IOF. Once it was clear Sameh was not going to allow the annexation of his land, the DCO was contacted in order to clarify the original illegal order for the construction of the fence. After 6 hours of remonstrating, the DCO arrived to concede defeat in their attempts to annex Sameh's land and vowed to construct the illegal fence beside the road on the edge of his land. The excavated topsoil and crops were transfered back to their original location.

Despite a fruitful day of steadfast resistance, it remains to be seen whether the soldiers will keep their word.

Ends

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