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Israeli forces carry out massive raids in Bethlehem, Hebron, injuring 6 Palestinians

Aug. 23, 2016 3:25 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2016 12:17 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers wielding the door of a workshop in Hebron (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces launched massive raids in and around the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem on Monday night, as well as in the Hebron area, injuring a number of Palestinian youth with live fire and rubber-coated bullets during clashes, in what the Israeli army said was the “largest” operation “against weapons smuggling” in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past year.

Palestinian security sources said that a large number of Israeli military vehicles stormed Bethlehem and the nearby towns of Beit Jala and Doha during predawn hours, as soldiers broke open the doors of several blacksmith and lathing workshops, confiscating machinery and equipment.

The sources said Israeli troops left notices on the doors informing the owners that their workshops had been closed until further notice by an Israeli military order “because a workshop (in the area) manufactures weapons.”

Several of the targeted workshops were reportedly owned by the Atiq, al-Hanash, Anistas, and Denho families.

Israeli forces also broke into al-Jamiaa cafeteria in the Cinema neighborhood, located in the center of Bethlehem, at dawn, locking workers inside.

Palestinian security sources added that clashes broke out in Bethlehem near the al-Azza refugee camp, as well as in Doha, between young Palestinian men and Israeli troops “who opened fire haphazardly” at the youth. At least one young man was injured in the leg by live fire and was taken to hospital for treatment.

Sources from the Palestinian Red Crescent said that five other Palestinian youth were shot with rubber-coated bullets, and that six suffered from tear gas inhalation and were treated on the spot.

In addition to using live fire, rubber-coated bullets, and tear gas, locals reported that drones could be heard flying overhead during the clashes.

Meanwhile, similar Israeli military raids were reported in the city of Hebron in the southern West Bank.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the Wadi al-Hariyya neighborhood and confiscated equipment and machinery from a lathing workshop after breaking in.

The Israeli army issued a statement on Tuesday calling the massive raids in the southern West Bank the “largest” operation “against weapons smuggling” in the occupied Palestinian territory in the past year.

The statement claimed that seven alleged “weapons factories” were uncovered -- in contrast with the notices posted in Bethlehem which stated that only one of the raided workshops was suspected of being used for weapons. The army added that two suspected “weapons traffickers” were detained in an unspecified West Bank location, and that dozens of weapons were confiscated.

An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma'an that the two suspected traffickers were detained in Bethlehem and Hebron. The Palestinian Prisoner's Society reported on Tuesday that Palestinians detained overnight in the Bethlehem area were released after several hours -- a fact the army spokesperson said they could not confirm. If corroborated, the quick release of the Bethlehem detainee would cast doubts on Israeli allegations that a trafficker was in fact apprehended in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, Doha, and significant parts of Beit Jala are located in Area A, the mere 18 percent of the West Bank officially under administrative and security control by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Although Israelis are officially prevented from entering Area A by the 1995 Oslo Accords, this has not stopped the Israeli army from regularly carrying out military incursions in these parts of the West Bank.

Israeli forces carry out raids across the occupied Palestinian territory on a near-nightly basis. Although UN documentation estimates that the army has carried out a weekly average of 75 detention raids in the occupied West Bank so far in 2016, the average rose to 93 weekly raids from June onwards.

The large-scale operation came in the wake of an unprecedented 20-hour raid carried out by the Israeli army in al-Fawwar refugee camp under the pretext of "uncovering weaponry."

During the onslaught, an unarmed Palestinian teen was shot dead and dozens others were hospitalized for injuries sustained by Israeli live fire. However, after nearly 24 hours when some 200 civilian homes were searched and ransacked, Israeli forces uncovered just two pistols, a commando knife, and some military equipment.

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