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Israeli forces shut down Palestinian conference in Jerusalem

March 26, 2014 10:43 P.M. (Updated: March 28, 2014 8:09 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces on Wednesday prevented Palestinian human rights organizations in Jerusalem from holding a conference in opposition to Arab enlistment in the Israeli military, organizers said.

Israeli special forces and police reportedly stormed the headquarters of the Yabous Cultural Center immediately prior to the beginning of the conference and shut down the building until the evening.

Organizers said that the police hung a notice signed by the chief of police banning the proceedings from moving forward because the conference was organized by activists associated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which Israeli authorities consider a terrorist organization.

Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center director Rami Saleh denied the allegations, noting that the conference was organized by JLAC, St. Yves, Kanaan Project, and in cooperation with the Baladna organization's Haifa branch.

Saleh said the conference aims to raise awareness in the Arab community of Jerusalem about "civil service," a form of service in the Israeli army that the Israeli state has increasingly enjoined Arab youth to enlist in.

The conference was intended to encourage opposition to "civil service" and all kinds of military service in the Israeli army, which is not mandatory for Muslim and Christian Palestinians in Israel, unlike for Druze and Jewish Israelis.

Dozens of Jerusalem youths aged 18-21 had joined the program, Saleh said.

Yabous institute director Rania Elias condemned the closure of the institute from 2-8 p.m, adding that the institute will continue to provide service and organize events for Palestinian organizations.

An Israeli police spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

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