The past month has seen a renewed campaign of arrests by Occupation forces, in particular targeting the villages that resist the construction of the Apartheid Wall. While several imprisoned Palestinians have been released, more in Bilâin, Niâlin and Jayyus have all fallen victim to this latest round of kidnappings and arrests.
Perhaps the most high profile of these arrests was that of Mohammed Srour, who was on his way back from Geneva, where he had testified on the murders of two Niâlin residents at a demonstration in December. He was arrested while attempting to cross into the West Bank from Jordon and held for two days, in what was clearly a reprisal for his testimony. Mohammed was well aware of the dangers of going to testify at the UN, and four minutes into his testimony at the Mission openly stated that he knew âfull 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 So concerned was Mohammed about being prevented from reaching the UN that he arranged specially to obtain a visa to Switzerland only after he was safely in Jordan.
Mohammed was released after a relatively short time, but all eyes are still on the UN to see what, if any, action it will take on the matter. No court or inquiry should tolerate the intimidation of its witnesses.
The most far-reaching and concentrated campaign of arrests has taken place in Bilâin. Seventeen have been arrested, and thirteen are still imprisoned. The arrests have taken place in what has become an all-too-predictable manner: taken in night raids or snatched during demonstrations, most of the victims are in their teens. The character of the policy, too, is recognisable â it is used both indiscriminately as collective punishment, and in a targeted manner designed to incapacitate the leadership of the demonstrations. In a recent ruling, a military court decided that Adeeb Abu Rahmeh, a prominent activist, would be kept until the charges against him had run their course, which could mean a year in prison for Adeeb, who is the sole provider for his family of nine children, wife and mother.
Jayyus, too, has been the subject of a set of arrests in the last few weeks. Earlier this month, sixty-five soldiers and ten jeeps stormed the village at 3am, breaking into homes without warning and forcing families onto the street. Three people were arrested, all in their late teens. The three were due to sit important university exams, and two have now missed them. No reason was given for the arrests.
In al-Maâsara, the last prisoner from the May 1 arrests was released. On July 20, Hasan Brajiya returned home after spending close to three months in jail. He and four others were taken following a march against the Wall in commemoration of Workersâ Day.