ISRAELI TROOPS RAID KOBAR VILLAGE –settlers go on the rampage in the West Bank


THE ISRAELI army has told members of the Barghouti family from the village of Kobar, northwest of Ramallah on Saturday, that they will be expelled to Jericho to the east of the West Bank if their son, Assem, does not turn himself in to the army, according to a member of the family.

Israel believes Assem was responsible for attacking and killing two Israeli soldiers near Ramallah on December 13, a day after soldiers shot and killed his brother, Saleh, in an ambush north of Ramallah in what his family charged was extrajudicial execution since Saleh was seen taken alive and unharmed from a car he was in.

The soldiers claimed Saleh, whom it claimed was responsible for shooting and injuring seven Israeli settlers days earlier near Ramallah, was shot and critically injured and later died of his wounds.

According to Saleh and Assem’s mother, a large army force raided their home early in the morning on Saturday, interrogated her and told her she has three days to turn her son, Assem, in or the entire family will be expelled to Jericho. She said the soldiers also detained her youngest son, Mohammad, 17, and her brother, Lutfi Barghouti.

The mother said she is currently alone at home after her son, Saleh, was killed, and her husband and all her sons have been detained.

The husband and one son were detained the day after the attack and are still held in custody at the Russian Compound detention centre in West Jerusalem after a court has remanded them last week for the fourth straight time in one month. Kobar residents confronted the soldiers when they raided the village to arrest the Barghouti members.

The soldiers fired tear gas at the residents, who pelted the soldiers with stones, causing suffocation cases but no serious injuries. The army has been conducting almost daily raids into Kobar as well as setting up checkpoints at its entrances as part of its collective punishment policy.

Meanwhile, two main routes into Ramallah city remained closed by year end and long delays were reported at multiple checkpoints across the West Bank, according to the biweekly Protection of Civilians Report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories covering the period between 18 and 31 December.

The main entrances to Ramallah from the east (DCO checkpoint) and from the west (Deir Ibzi’ gate) were closed on 13 December, after Palestinians shot and killed two Israeli soldiers near Ramallah.

On at least 63 occasions, Israeli forces set up ‘partial checkpoints’, which are not permanently staffed, for various periods of time, more than triple the average number of such incidents recorded since the beginning of 2018, disrupting the access of people to services and livelihoods, said the OCHA report.

Reporting on Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank during the reporting period, OCHA said 12 Palestinians were injured and at least 380 trees and 69 vehicles were vandalised in 14 incidents of settler violence.

Ten of the injuries were as a result of physical assault and two due to stone throwing. Jewish settlers went on a rampage in the West Bank following the killing of the two soldiers, attacking Palestinian villages and commuters while soldiers were watching and even encouraging the settlers to attack the unarmed Palestinian civilians.

In one incident of settler violence, a group of settlers stormed on December 24 into the Youth Against Settlement Centre in the Israeli-army controlled H2 area of Hebron city, in the south of the West Bank, clashed with Palestinians, injuring seven of them, and damaging a fence around the centre.

In another five incidents, settlers vandalised some 380 olive trees in the villages of al-Sawiya and Burqa, both in Nablus, Turmus Ayya near Ramallah, and Tarqumiya and Khirbet at Tawamin in Hebron area, according to local community sources.

Additionally, in Deir Sharaf, al-Sawiya, both in Nablus, Yasuf in Salfit area and East Jerusalem, Israeli settlers punctured the tires of 69 vehicles, and sprayed ‘price tag’ graffiti on the walls of Palestinian houses. Price Tag is the name of the settler terror organisation targeting Palestinians in the occupied territories.

In 2018, OCHA recorded 265 incidents where Israeli settlers killed or injured Palestinians or damaged Palestinian property, marking a 69 per cent increase compared with 2017. On Sunday a number of Palestinians were shot and injured with rubber-coated steel bullets, while others were suffocated as clashes continued in al-Bireh/Ramallah, the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces stormed al-Bireh city, raided the commercial shops in the area, and seized the security camera footage, spurring clashes with residents. Forces used rubber-coated steel bullets, and tear gas canisters against residents, shooting and injuring several people with rubber bullets. Others suffered from suffocation due to tear gas inhalation.

Elsewhere, illegal Jewish settlers on Sunday uprooted and stole newly planted almond and olive saplings near the small village of Yanoun, to the south of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activities in the area, said that settlers from the illegal outpost of ‘777’, accompanied by a bulldozer, uprooted a number of olive and almond saplings, which belong to Palestinian villagers from Yanoun. About 400,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only settlements across the occupied West Bank in violation of international law, and are rarely held accountable for attacks on Palestinians and their property.

Israeli authorities have served indictments in only 8.2 per cent of cases of Israeli settlers committing anti-Palestinian crimes in the occupied West Bank in the past three years, according to Israeli NGO Yesh Din. A Palestinian teenager was critically injured in the head with rubber bullets on Sunday, after he was shot by Israeli forces during a raid of the city of al-Bireh, near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

The forces raided the city after a settler’s car came under fire near the Israeli checkpoint Beit El, on the north entrance to the city. The soldiers shot 16-year-old Fawwaz Adel in the head, and he was moved to hospital for medical treatment, where his condition was described as critical.

The soldiers also raided an auto show in the city and seized the recording of its surveillance cameras. Israeli occupation forces on Saturday night sealed off the entrances to the village of Beit Fajjar, to the south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, banning entry and exit of Palestinians into and out of the village.

The forces locked down with a metal gate a regional road near the town of Sa’ir, to the north of Hebron in southern West Bank, denying access of Palestinian traffic. The lockdown of the road forced local Palestinians to use alternative, longer roads in order to reach their homes in several villages and towns of the area, Palestinian security sources said.

According to human rights groups, restricting movement has been one of the main tools that Israel employs to enforce its regime of occupation over the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories. ‘Palestinians’ freedom of movement in the Occupied Territories lies completely at the mercy of the state’s whims, the instructions given to soldiers at the local District Coordination Office, and the way in which they implement them,’ B’Tselem Israeli human rights group has said in a report. ‘This state of affairs forces Palestinians to live in constant uncertainty, making it difficult to perform simple tasks and make plans.’

Also on Saturday, Israeli occupation forces banned Palestinian citizens, including Palestinian Authority officials, from entering the village of Khan al-Ahmar, east of Jerusalem. Forces obstructed a convoy while on its way to Khan al-Ahmar, and briefly detained Minister Walid Assaf, Chairman of the PA’s Commission Against Settlements and the Wall, as well as Mahmoud al-Aloul, Deputy Chairman of ruling Fatah movement.

The two officials along with others including journalists and activists were denied access to the village, according to witnesses. Earlier in the day, Israeli occupation forces set up a number of checkpoints on roads leading to the village, and interrogated some of the Palestinian drivers and passengers, some of whom were ordered by the forces to get back.

The two officials and the other activists were on their way to the village to attend a rally commemorating the 54th anniversary of the founding of Fatah movement. Khan al-Ahmar was chosen by Fatah for this rally in solidarity with its Bedouin population who are at the risk of being displaced and having their homes demolished by Israeli occupation authorities.