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Dozens of women arrested in Awarta village

April 7, 2011 9:52 A.M. (Updated: April 10, 2011 3:22 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Israeli troops stormed a Palestinian village early Thursday, arresting more than 100 women in what local officials said was part of the ongoing investigation into the murder of five settlers in March.

Hundreds of troops entered Awarta -- the village adjacent to Itamar, an illegal settlement where the murders took place -- shortly after midnight and imposed a curfew after which they began rounding up the women, local council head Tayis Awwad said.

Officials told Ma'an that men and women were taken in the raids, which involved house-to-house searches in the early morning. Some of the women, witnesses said, were in their 60s, and many were taken by force.

Soldiers continued to conduct house-to-house searches through the night, the officials added. Palestinian security sources confirmed the report.

This was the fourth intensive raid of the village where scores were detained, the first coming the day after an unidentified attacker stabbed to death five members of the Fogel family, including two children and an infant.

But Thursday's raid marked the first time they had arrested any women, Awwad said.

In the wake of the murders, Awarta has been the center of a massive manhunt. The village was put under military closure, and a curfew was imposed for five days between March 12 and 16. Some 40 men were detained during the closure, and since then two more mass roundups were reported.

Those detained have been questioned and subjected to DNA testing, officials said last week.

So far no one has been charged, with the military refusing to comment on the operation.

The Detainees’ Center in Nablus condemned the overnight arrest raid.

The mass detentions, a statement from the center said, were illegeal and arbitrary and "go against the human rights of the residents."

Awarta was the second village put under closure overnight, with locals in the Tubas area saying the Israeli army, backed by military bulldozers, entered the village of Aqaba where two homes were demolished.

AFP contributed to this report.
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