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'No comment' on arbitrary treatment

July 16, 2010 3:26 P.M. (Updated: July 23, 2010 3:13 P.M.)
Qalqiliya – Ma'an – A father of five from Azzun Atma village in the northern West Bank was told by Israeli soldiers manning the single civilian crossing into the area that on Tuesday, 50kgs of flour was too much and he could not bring it home.

Hassen Mahmoud Qadus was also told to leave two kilograms of meat, purchased for his family, at the checkpoint to rot. The quantity of meat, a soldier told him, was above what was permitted for personal consumption.

"There are such regulations in place," a representative for the Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories told Ma'an on Wednesday, explaining that if residents of the Qalqiliya-area village want to bring goods into their village to sell, they must get a permit, bring them in via a crossing linking the village with Israel, and pay taxes on the goods.

Azzun Atma, with a population of 1,670, is trapped on the west side of Israel's separation wall, but residents are prohibited from accessing Israel. Road barriers were constructed to the south of the village, and the illegal Israeli settlements to the east - Sha'are Tiqwa - and to the west - Oranit - constructed perimeter fences blocking movement from all access points except the Azzun Atma checkpoint pierced into the separation wall to the north of the village.

"You will have to ask the army," the COGAT representative told Ma'an, when asked about the decision to prevent Qadus from bringing home the quantities of flour and meat.

When distributing aid to Palestinian refugees, who make up 4% of the residents in Azzun Atma, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East distributes 50-kilogram bags of flour, five kilograms of rice, five kilograms of sugar, two liters of cooking oil, one kilogram of powdered milk and five kilograms of lentils. The quantities are distributed to families every three months for personal consumption.

An Israeli military source explained that the decision to deny Qadus permission to bring in the food "could have been the independent decision of a soldier based on the situation," but directed the question to the military's Central Command.

On Thursday, a second source said the matter was "more complicated" than it appeared, and came back with "no comment" on the situation of Qadus.

Asked if the military could provide the guidelines set out for villagers delineating amounts of goods for personal consumption versus for commercial use, the military took 24-hours to return with an official statement of "no comment."

Speaking with Ma'an's reporter in the village, residents of Azzun Attma appealed for international intervention, asking that they be permitted to move freely in and out of their village and to transport food supplies from the city of Qalqiliya and neighboring towns back to their homes without harassment.

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