Articolo a cura di John Reed in Jerusalem pubblicato sul Financial Times
Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats and confiscated an aid truck carrying tents to homeless Palestinians in the West Bank on Friday in an incident likely to test Israel’s strained relations with European countries.
The incident happened on Friday afternoon in the northern Jordan Valley when Acted, a French humanitarian aid organisation funded by the EU’s humanitarian arm, was stopped by Israel Defence Forces soldiers near the hamlet of Kirbet Makhoul, home to about 100 Bedouin Palestinians, which Israel’s army bulldozed early last Monday.
Diplomats from France, the UK, Ireland, Spain Sweden, Greece, Australia, Brazil and the EU and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs accompanied the convoy, which Israeli soldiers stopped on early Friday afternoon near the demolished hamlet.
A diplomat who was at the scene told the Financial Times that IDF soldiers blocked the aid from being delivered, confiscated the truck and forcibly removed a French diplomat, who he said “ended up on the ground”. Reuters quoted Marion Castain, the French diplomat, as saying: “They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity.”
Sound grenades were detonated close to the group, witnesses said. Although there were only a few IDF soldiers to begin with, a diplomat said, by the time the action was concluded there was a heavy presence of soldiers and police. An IDF commander told the group that the area had been declared a closed military zone.
“We are reporting this to our capitals,” the diplomat said. “I can’t tell at this moment what the response might be. I think it’s a serious incident.”
Israel’s military said the clash happened after Palestinian and foreign activists were prevented from “illegally erecting tents” in violation of a standing supreme court decision and objected, throwing stones and striking law enforcement officers.
“The IDF contained the violence with riot dispersal means, seized the tents and detained three Palestinians who instigated the activity,” an IDF spokeswoman said. “Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are being reviewed, and if required complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities.”
The clash came a day after Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief peace negotiator, took a group of diplomats and journalists to Kirbet Makhoul on a tour of the Jordan Valley. The trip was meant to illustrate Israel’s economic grip on the region – which accounts for most of the agricultural output of Jewish settlements – and the country’s continued displacement of Palestinians.
Residents say the hamlet’s 12 families were given no warning of the raid at 4:30am on Monday, and their houses are now mangled piles of metal. A kindergarten and animal pens were also destroyed in the operation. They say they were told they were being evicted because the area needed to be used for military training.
“These are despicable, ruthless acts,” Yousef Bisharat, a resident, said. “There is no place for me and my family to live.”
Israel has not allowed the villagers to rebuild. A spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross said that the organisation had this week tried to deliver “house demolition kits” including tents and hygiene kits to the displaced villagers twice, and twice the tents were confiscated.
“We urge the Israeli authorities to hand them back to us and to ensure that a similar situation does not happen again,” said Jon Marten Larsen. He said that the ICRC had on September 18 managed to deliver hygiene kits to the displaced villagers.
Relations between Israel and EU countries have frayed recently over guidelines by Brussels to cut off funding to Israeli entities with operations in Jewish settlements, and a plan to begin labelling settlement-made goods.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013.