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9 more detained in latest Awarta sweep

April 10, 2011 9:42 A.M. (Updated: April 17, 2011 9:36 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma'an) -- Caretaker Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced Sunday that he would visit the village of Awarta, after Israeli forces entered the village to carry out the fifth arrest campaign, detaining nine, including a mother, father and daughter.

The Sunday morning raids followed close on the heels of a mass round up on Friday, which saw more than 100 women forcibly taken from their homes, along with tens of men, and subjected to DNA testing and finger printing.

Mayor of Awarta Qays Awwad said Israeli forces raided the village shortly after midnight Sunday morning, and identified those detained as Muhammad Fawzi Awwad, his sons Amjad, Hakam, and Majdi in addition to Ayman Mahmoud, Fawzi Awwad, Mazin Niyaz Awwad, his wife and daughter.

It is the fifth arrest raid on the village, in the wake of an 11 March murder of five members of a settler family, including two children and an infant, in the nearby settlement of Itamar. Following the killings, which were called a "terrorist attack" by Israeli leaders, though no faction claimed the grisly crime, Israeli forces shut down the village under a military closure that lasted five days, trapping residents.

Door-to-door searches were carried out, and several were said to have been beaten or suffer from dog bites from sniffer animals used in the searches. Dozens were detained and taken for questioning.

A second closure was imposed a week later, when several more were detained. In early April another 40 men were taken and submitted to DNA testing at the Huwwara military base.

The Palestinian Authority's media center condemned the arrests, calling them "incessant abuse campaigns held by the Israeli occupation army, against the people of Awarta village."

Details of the case remain under an Israeli gag-order, and no suspects have been publicly identified. Investigations appear to have focused on the village of Awarta, but early in the investigation workers at the settlement were questioned.

Fayyad is scheduled to visit Awarta later on Sunday and hold a general meeting with the residents at the local council to learn about the arrest campaigns, questioning and events since the murders.

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