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PFLP calls Netanyahu war criminal over ongoing crackdown after Jerusalem attack

June 19, 2017 4:55 P.M. (Updated: June 20, 2017 4:10 P.M.)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sept. 20, 2015. (AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have continued to face harsh condemnation after enforcing severe security measures in the occupied Palestinian territory in the wake of a deadly attack in occupied East Jerusalem on Friday, in which three Palestinians were shot dead after an Israeli border policewoman was fatally stabbed.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a war criminal on Sunday, while the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) also strongly condemned the measures, stressing that “they fall within the collective punishment policy, which is prohibited in the international human rights law.”

After it was revealed that the three Palestinians -- Baraa Ibrahim Saleh, 18, Adel Hassan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, and Usama Ahmad Ata, 19 -- were from the occupied West Bank village of Deir Abu Mashaal, the town was subsequently placed under curfew and lockdown, and has been subjected to multiple military raids since.

The initial predawn military raid that followed the attack sparked clashes, during which at least two locals were shot and injured.

Meanwhile, main streets and business in around Jerusalem's Old City, where the killings occurred, have been forced to close, as Palestinians with West Bank IDs have been rounded up and sent home on special Israeli police buses after Netanyahu revoked 250,000 family visitation permits that had been issued for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

According to PCHR, Israeli forces said that merchants in the Old City would be fined over 40,000 shekels ($11,345) if they opened for business, while Israeli police said 350 Palestinians were detained and deported to the West Bank over the course of Saturday alone.

PCHR highlighted the violent manner in which Israeli forces enforced the crackdown on Jerusalem -- expected to remain in force until the end of Ramadan -- with Israeli officers chasing civilians, firing sound bombs, and even assaulting some bystander and journalists.

PCHR also denounced measures in Deir Abu Mashaal, where the families of the slain Palestinians face imminent displacement as their homes are slated to be punitively demolished, while they have also had all of their Israeli-issued permits revoked -- including long-term work permits.

According to PCHR, the six of Ata's family members live in a 150-square-meter home, while 10 of Ankoush's relatives live in a 110-square-meter home, and six of Saleh's family members life in a 140-square-meter house -- meaning that a total of 22 people would be left homeless by the punitive demolitions in spite of not having been charged with any wrongdoing.

The PFLP, the leftist PLO faction that claimed partial responsibility for the attack, released a statement Sunday, denouncing Netanyahu as a war criminal for the crackdown.

Saleh and Ata were said to be PFLP members, while Adel Ankoush was said to be a member of Hamas. However, Netanyahu’s office claimed on Sunday that one of the slain men was in fact affiliated to the Fatah movement, without specifying which assailant it was referring to. Unconfirmed reports on social media quoted Ata’s family as saying that their son belonged to Fatah.

The PFLP denounced Israel’s widely condemned policy of punitive home demolitions, saying it “has never succeeded in smothering the spirit of resistance or breaking the popular support of the masses of our people. Instead, these attacks only fuel the flame of intifada and resistance.”

The statement said that punitive demolitions and the “unprecedented action” taken against Jerusalem and Deir Abu Mashaal were just empty threats made by the Israeli prime minister “in an attempt to again cover up the corruption charges that have arisen once more.”

The PFLP also condemned “the heavily armed forces of the Israeli police that stormed the courtyards of al-Aqsa Mosque, attacking worshipers and imposing closure on the Damascus Gate area,” referring to a violent raid of the holy site on Sunday.

The PLO faction called on the Palestinian masses to break the siege on Jerusalem and Deir Abu Mashaal, and called on “all to turn any home demolitions into a battle with the enemy to prevent and stop this policy and expose it before the world.”

The PFLP issued a warning to “the Zionist enemy,” saying that “for every demolished home in Deir Abu Mashaal, Palestinian fighters will emerge from the rubble of these homes to respond to the crime.”

The Israeli government has long faced criticism for its response to attacks, with rights groups saying severe security measures amount to collective punishment and a violation of international law.

In June 2016, in the wake of a shooting attack in Tel Aviv that left four Israelis dead, Israel imposed similarly severe punitive measures across the occupied Palestinian territory in what the UN said could have amounted to collective punishment.
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