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B'Tselem: Israeli army continues to disrupt life for residents of Deir Abu Mashaal

July 1, 2017 12:20 P.M. (Updated: July 1, 2017 9:35 P.M.)
Israeli soldiers inspect a Palestinian ambulance on its way to Jerusalem at the West Bank army checkpoint of Qalandiya (AFP/ Leila Gorchev/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities have continued to implement restrictive policies on Palestinians in Deir Abu Mashaal in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, after three residents of the town were shot dead last month after allegedly carrying out a deadly attack near Damascus Gate in occupied East Jerusalem, which killed an Israeli police officer, B'Tselem reported on Thursday.

After it was revealed that the three alleged assailants -- Baraa Ibrahim Saleh, 18, Adel Hassan Ahmad Ankoush, 18, and Usama Ahmad Ata, 19 -- were from the village of Deir Abu Mashaal, the town was subsequently placed under lockdown, and was subjected to multiple military raids.

Based on field research conducted in the village, B'Tselem reported that, on the night of the attack, Israeli forces installed an iron gate at the entrance of the village and erected large rocks and piles of dirt on three dirt roads used by villagers, and refused to allow any Palestinian from leaving or entering the area, putting the village under a complete siege.

Locals removed some of the obstacles in order to drive out of the village, as many residents are dependent on work in Ramallah city.

Over the following days, B’Tselem reported, the Israeli army continuously obstructed commuters' efforts to free up the roads by erecting fresh blockades.

Three days following the attack, Israeli forces permitted residents to leave the village on foot from the main entrance. However, Palestinian men between the ages of 15 and 25 continued to be barred from exiting or entering the village.

The following day, Israeli forces permitted cars to pass through the main entrance, but Palestinians were subject to extensive security checks, B’Tselem reported, and men between 15 and 25 had continued to be banned.

Five days later, on June 24, at the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that directly follows the holy month of Ramadan, Israeli forces began lessening the restrictions and allowing residents to travel by car more easily, BTselem said.

However, B’Tselem noted that the iron gate erected following the attack remains at the main entrance of the village, and Israeli forces continue to be stationed there performing random security checks on passing Palestinian vehicles.

Immediately following the attack, Israeli authorities also took measurements of the homes of the alleged assailants in preparations for punitive demolitions, which the families had been informed would be carried out “soon.”

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a total of 22 people, the three mens’ family members, will be left homeless by the punitive demolitions in spite of not having been charged with any wrongdoing.

Some 250,000 Palestinians who had received family visitation permits to enter Jerusalem and Israel during Ramadan also saw their permits revoked following the attack.

In addition, family members of the alleged assailants had their Israeli work permits revoked as a punitive measure. B’Tselem reported that this included 50 residents from the assailants’ extended families who were dependent on work inside Israel.

B’Tselem also noted that the permits had been revoked by Israeli authorities when members of the families had attempted to pass the Israeli-erected checkpoint en route to their work in Israel. The revocation occurred without any prior notice that would have allowed the families to challenge the decision, B’Tselem pointed out.

Israeli forces also carried out frequent army raids on the village and detained the mother of 18-year-old Ankoush on June 21. According to B’tselem, she is still in Israeli custody.

Ankoush’s father Hassan was also detained during an overnight raid on June 29.

The Israeli raids have also erupted into clashes with Israeli forces and the Palestinian residents, B’Tselem highlighted, resulting in at least four young Palestinian men being hurt by Israeli forces.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the three alleged assailants have continued to be held by Israeli authorities, as Israel is known to withhold Palestinian bodies from their families for extended periods of time after they have carried out an attack, alleging that funerals of “martyrs” -- Palestinians killed by Israeli forces -- encourage “incitement” against the Israeli state.

However, Palestinians have long claimed that the policy is a form of "collective punishment," targeting the families of actual or alleged Palestinian attackers, while also preventing families of slain Palestinians from requesting proper autopsies on their loved ones, as the bodies returned are often damaged and disfigured.

“For almost two weeks now, ever since the attack, the military has been disrupting the lives of all 5,000 or so residents of the village, although they have been accused of no personal wrongdoing,” B’Tselem said in the report.

“This automatic form of retaliation has become a matter of policy for the military, in a cynical abuse of its power to mistreat civilians. This kind of collective harm is morally and legally indefensible,” B’Tselem added.
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