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Israel withdraws from Awarta after day-long operation

April 12, 2011 10:30 P.M. (Updated: April 18, 2011 2:42 P.M.)
NABLUS (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces withdrew from Awarta village on Tuesday, leaving some of the houses damaged.

The village's mayor Qais Awwad said soldiers damaged four houses after searching the belongings of Hassan Awwad, Salah Awwad, Salim Awwad, and Najeh Muhammad Hassan Awwad.

The mayor added that Israeli authorities are looking for "anything" to implicate Palestinians in the murder of an Israeli family in the illegal settlement of Itamar last month.

The army has refused to comment on any part of its operations in Awarta, which lies near the northern West Bank town of Nablus and is home to about 7,000 people.

Awwad said the village remained under curfew and that Israeli troops have arrested hundreds of people without charge.

The latest arrests included several members of the Awwad family, including three who were detained in the town of Beitunia, on the outskirts of the city of Ramallah.

On Monday, village officials said three other members of the Awwad family had been detained, including a 15-year-old girl and her mother.

Despite hundreds of arrests, no one has been charged with the slayings, though Israeli media reported on Tuesday that a breakthrough in the case was "imminent," without providing further details.

On Sunday, Palestinian human rights group Addameer accused Israel of a "campaign of collective punishment" against Awarta, and called on the international community to monitor arrests in the village.

The same day, the Palestinian Authority premier was prevented from visiting the town. Salam Fayyad had intended to express solidarity with residents and hold a general meeting with villagers.

Israel's military confirmed receiving a request but said "security activity" prevented the visit.

Awarta is in "Area B" of the West Bank, meaning it is theoretically administered under a joint Israeli-Palestinian security regime, according to the terms of the Oslo Accords.

AFP contributed to this report.

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