***image2***A member of the Niâlin popular committee was arrested yesterday on his way back from testifying to Israeli war crimes at the United Nations. Mohammed Srour was crossing the bridge across the Jordan river when he was stopped by the Israeli military and taken to Ofra, near Ramallah. Srour had just come back from the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on The Gaza Conflict, whose remit covers âall violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza.â
He was an eye-witness to the killings of Arafat Khawaje, 22, and 20-year-old Mohammed Khawaje, who were both shot on a Gaza solidarity demonstration in Niâlin on 28th December. Occupation forces opened fire with live ammunition, shooting Arafat in the back, killing him instantly; Mohammed was shot in the forehead and pronounced brain-dead three days later.
It is five years since the International Court of Justiceâs ruling on the illegality of the Wall. It is the responsibility of the United Nations and the international community to enforce international law and to defend the rights of the Palestinian communities that resist the construction of the Wall, a responsibility that has yet to be met. According to a recent report, the Occupation militaryâs strategy against these villages constitutes a dirty war, a systematic attempt break the will of the popular resistance movement and undermine its support. The war is waged with deliberate maiming and killing at protests â 16 unarmed people have been killed at protesting villages since 2004, half of them children, and the vast majority ambushed or shot while fleeing â but also with a program of collective punishments, threats and mass and targeted arrests.
The fact that Mohammed has been arrested confirms the use of arrests in the repression of Palestinian communities. His arrest, which, as he was arrested while coming into the country, must have been premeditated, is clearly supposed to be a reprisal for his testimony, a deterrent to the investigation of war crimes and murders. As an active member of the popular resistance movement his arrest also falls into a recent pattern of targeted arrests designed to eliminate the organising capacity of the demonstrations.
Mohammed was not unaware of the dangers of going to the UN. Just four minutes into his testimony at Geneva, he said: âI know full well that I will pay the price for this testimony when I return at Israeli crossing points in my journey of return after this hearing.â
Attention will now turn to the UNâs response to Mohammedâs arrest. It remains unclear whether the organisation will take any action whatsoever over its own eye-witness being detained as a reprisal for his testimony. Unless his case is followed up, Mohammed will remain in real danger of abuse and neglect in Israeli detention. If the UN fails once again to intervene, Mohammed Srour will not be the first resident of Niâlin to have been failed by the international community.