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International activists target of Bil'in raid

April 4, 2011 12:39 P.M. (Updated: April 5, 2011 4:43 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces entered the central West Bank village of Bil'in on Monday morning, searching homes and harassing residents, reportedly in search of international solidarity activists who often remain in the area to document rights violations.

A spokesperson for the local popular committee said the raid began at 1:30 a.m. and lasted approximately an hour. The official said the homes of village residents Ali Birnat and Khamis Abu Rahma were targeted and searched.

Local committee members attempting to document the raid were prevented from accessing the scene of the searches.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

A statement from the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee said Abu Rahma was questioned about who was residing in his house, noting soldiers were "interested in internationals, although they could not find any," noting that soldiers and police searched Abu Rahma's home and garden, including the garbage and inside cars located nearby.

Groups of solidarity activists have for the past year stayed frequently in the village, which hosts the longest running weekly protest against Israel's separation wall.

The prominent popular committee in the village has organized a yearly conference on popular non-violent resistance, and gained international support for its initiatives.

Since the early years of the protests, international solidarity activists have joined the demonstrations in an effort to mitigate the use of violence against the villagers. The use of high-velocity tear-gas canisters have caused death and injury to residents, and solidarity activists say an international presence witnessing and documenting the action often reduces the use of force.

Once activists left the village at the close of the protests, particularly during 2009 and 2010, Israeli forces would enter and detain teens they said were throwing stones at the soldiers, and later targeted protest leaders for detentions.

Activists began staying overnight in the village to document the night raids they said were being used to intimidate villagers, who have also launched court actions against the confiscation of land by Israel's separation wall.

Sixty percent of the village lands now stand on the far side of the wall, and are largely inaccessible but for a gate that opens periodically allowing farmers to tend crops, without the use of heavy machinery or equipment.
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