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Israeli forces raid Palestinian refugee camp, seize security footage and computers

Feb. 7, 2017 7:38 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 8, 2017 3:30 P.M.)
Israeli forces raid Aida refugee camp's Lajee Center. Feb. 7, 2017 (Photo: PNN)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli forces raided a community center in Aida refugee camp in the southern occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem early Tuesday evening, when they seized computers and security camera footage, according to locals and a Palestinian news outlet.

Palestinian News Network (PNN) captured footage of Israeli forces thoroughly searching the Lajee Center, a community organization for refugee youth that stands at the entrance to the camp.

Israeli forces have maintained an almost daily presence in the camp in recent months.

According to PNN, Israeli troops held head of the center Salah Ajarma and head of the center’s media unit Muhammad al-Azza, as soldiers searched the building and confiscated surveillance camera recordings and a computer.

Israeli soldiers took Ajarma and the confiscated equipment to the military base next to Rachel’s Tomb, when Ajarma was given a notice to meet with Israeli intelligence for interrogation at a later date, and was then released, PNN reported.

The raid came after Israeli police spokesperson Luba al-Samri said in a statement at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday that “a suspicious object” was thrown at Rachel's Tomb, which is located next to the Lajee center on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier.

Al-Samri said that police and border guards had rushed to the scene with explosive experts following the incident, reporting no injuries or property damages.

An Israeli police spokesperson could not be reached to comment on whether the early evening raid was made in connection to the "object" that was thrown earlier.

Meanwhile, locals in Aida have reported escalated military procedures over the past several months, creating what some residents have called a perpetual “atmosphere of fear.”

Residents of the camp say that Israeli soldiers intentionally provoke local youth with tear gas or bullets, in order to start clashes with the young Palestinians who sometimes throw stones at Rachel’s Tomb.

Last Thursday, hundreds of Israeli soldiers stormed the refugee camp in the predawn hours and detained 12 of its residents, including four minors.

“The soldiers broke into several houses waking, searching, and harassing residents,” a statement released by the Lajee Center said at the time.

The center said the young men were “aggressively” taken from their homes, and that no explanation was given for their detention, nor were their families informed of their whereabouts or how long they would remain in custody.

Among those arrested were 17-year-old high school students Abdallah Hamad and Muhammad Jumaa Uweis, who the Lajee Center said were active volunteers in the organization’s environmental unit.

As of Tuesday, Hamad and Uweis -- along with the majority of those detained -- remained in custody, with at least one, Fathi Abu Srour, having been released, according to local sources.

Lajee’s statement called last Thursday’s detention raid “part of the routine disturbance and abuse caused by Israeli soldiers,” in the camp, asserting that “military operations in the camp have caused irreversible damage to residents, especially children, who are being denied their basic right of protection against abuse and harm.”

“The unsafe living conditions in the camp due to constant presence of Israeli military forces deeply affects the health development of children and jeopardizes the future of the community,” the statement added.
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