Just days after Israeli troops oversaw the bulldozing of Palestinian homes and farmland in Beit Ummar village to make way for the expansion of an Israeli Jewish-only settlement, Palestinians, internationals and Israelis who gathered in Beit Ummar village Saturday to protest the theft were met by the Israeli army, who fired tear gas and abducted 3 Israelis, 2 internationals and 1 Palestinian.Earlier this month, Israeli troops demolished homes in order to build 50 new houses for the nearby Israeli settlement constructed on stolen Palestinian land beginning in 2001.
Beit Ummar has become a site of weekly non-violent protests against the seizure of village land for the Wall and settlements in the past several years, with Palestinians, Israelis and international peace activists gathering every Saturday to march to the site of construction and demand that their land be returned.
Over the last month, Israeli forces have abducted 13 youths, aged 15 to 28, at protests in Beit Ummar, leading to concerns in the community that youths are being targeted, and mistreated in Israeli detention. According to a report by The Palestine Monitor, “The Israeli military typically arrest youths on charges of rock-throwing. They are then tried by an Israeli court and sentenced, often without access to their families or legal counsel. Conditions are notoriously inhumane during their captivity.
“15-year-old Rashid A., another resident of Beit Ummar, was arrested last May and held in jail for one month. He was held in a four-by-four metre cell with ten other prisoners, all of whom were adults. During interrogation, he was slapped and deprived of food and sleep. He could not see or talk to his family during his time in jail, despite his age. He was allowed contact with a lawyer during his trial, and released with a 500 shekel fine.”
In addition to the abductions during the protests, Israeli troops have also stepped up pre-dawn raids in Beit Ummar, raiding homes and seizing protest organizers. This is part of a wider campaign against non-violent organizers throughout the West Bank, many of whom have been held in Israeli detention camps without charges for months.