The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the detention of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Member from the Change and Reform Bloc affiliated to Hamas, Mohammed Toutah, and the former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu ‘Arafa, by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) that had stormed the head office of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem yesterday.Also, PLC Member Abdul Jaber al-Foqaha’ was arrested by IOF from his house in Ramallah this morning.

PCHR believes that these actions are a continuation of targeting the elected PLC Members following the Palestinian legislative elections of 2006. PCHR views such detentions as a retaliatory act and a form of collective punishment prohibited under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949.

According to information collected by PCHR, at approximately 13:15 on Monday, 23 January 2012, an IOF undercover unit comprised of 30 members stormed the yard of ICRC’s head office in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

They attacked the sit-in tent in which PLC Member Mohammed Omran Saleh Toutah, 43, and former Minister Khaled Abu ‘Arafa, 51, were staying and arrested both men.

They further arrested Toutah’s brother, Mo’tassim, 48, and Amr Abu ‘Arafa, 26, who were in the tent as well. Eyewitnesses indicated that the undercover unit directly headed to the tent and introduced themselves as police.

They took Toutah and Abu ‘Arafa out of the head office premises, put each of them in a vehicle and transported them to al-Masqoubiya detention center in Jerusalem.

In the meantime, other members of the undercover unit stormed the ICRC’s head office and confiscated computer sets and cell phones belonging to Toutah and Abu ‘Arafa, which indicates that they went up to the second floor of the building, where Toutah and Abu ‘Arafa used to sleep, and confiscated their belongings.

Israeli police spokeswoman for the Arab media, Loba Samri, stated that with the assistance of the General Security Service ‘Shabak,’ interrogators of the Minorities Department of the Central Investigations Unit, Jerusalem District, arrested PLC Member Mohammed Toutah and former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs, Khaled Abu ‘Arafa, from East Jerusalem at ICRC’s head office in Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.

Samri said: ‘They have been hiding in that place for about a year and a half after their Israeli ID’s had been canceled by the Israeli Ministry of Interior following their activities and work in an illegal terrorist organization,’ as described by Samri. She also claimed that there is no diplomatic status in the ICRC’s office.

PLC Member Mohammed Toutah, former Minister Khaled Abu ‘Arafa and PLC Member Ahmed ‘Attoun had decided to sit-in at the ICRC head office in Jerusalem since June 2010 rejecting an Israeli decision to withdraw the ID’s of Jerusalemite PLC Members and give them temporary permits instead that expire after a month.

This decision was taken under the pretext that PLC Members are affiliated to a banned organization and participating in the Palestinian legislative elections representing Hamas.

On 06 September 2011, an IOF undercover unit kidnapped PLC Member ‘Attoun from the same sit-in tent in Jerusalem and he was kept in custody until he was deported to Ramallah on 06 December 2011.

In the same context, in the early morning of Tuesday, 24 January 2012, IOF stormed the house of PLC Member from the Change and Reform Bloc, Abdul Jaber al-Foqaha’, 43, in al-Masyoun neighborhood in Ramallah. They searched his house, damaged its contents, and arrested him. Al-Foqaha’ had been released in the beginning of February 2011 following two years of imprisonment in Israeli jails, as he was placed under administrative detention, which was renewed several times.

With the detention of Toutah and al-Foqaha’, the number of PLC Members detained in the Israeli jails has mounted to 27 members; 24 of whom are from the Change and Reform Bloc affiliated to Hamas, including the Speaker of PLC Dr. Aziz Dwaik who was arrested on 19 January 2012 at Jaba’ checkpoint, northeast of Jerusalem.

Additionally, the number of former ministers arrested by IOF has mounted to three, all of whom served in the tenth Palestinian government: Khaled Abu ‘Arafa, former Minister of Jerusalem Affairs; Wasfi Qabha, formers Minister of Prisoners’ Affairs; and Isa al-Ja’bari, former Minister of Local Government.

It is worth noting that such detentions are part of an ongoing Israeli campaign against PLC Members from the Change and Reform Bloc, being ministers and members of local councils in the West Bank since late June 2006, after Hamas had won the majority of seats in the PLC in the Palestinian elections of January 2006.

PCHR condemns storming the ICRC’s head office in East Jerusalem and the detention of PLC Member Toutah and former Minister Khaled Abu ‘Arafa, and:

1. Emphasizes that such detentions are part of a plan to undermine the results of the Palestinian legislative elections, which were organized in a fair and democratic atmosphere on 25 January 2006, and to abort the Palestinian reconciliation efforts;

2. Reiterates that such detentions constitute a form of retaliatory acts and collective punishment against the civilian population, prohibited under the Fourth Geneva Convention;

3. Calls for the immediate release of the PLC Speaker and all Ministers and PLC Members who have been detained in Israeli jails; and

4. Condemns storming the ICRC’s head office in Jerusalem in spite of the immunity given to the ICRC under the agreement between the organization and Israel. PCHR stresses that this attack is a violation of international humanitarian law and the ICRC’s status under the Geneva Conventions.