Palestinian school stormed by Israeli soldiers


ISRAELI forces stormed a secondary school in the southern occupied West Bank village of Tuqu on Sunday.

Three Palestinian teachers suffered from pepper spray inflammation at the hands of Israeli forces.

The soldiers raided the school to to remove posters commemorating 17-year-old Qusay Hassan al-Umour, who was shot dead by Israeli forces in the town in mid-January.

Israeli forces raided the school to remove photos of al-Umour which were posted to mark the 40 days since his killing. Witnesses said that teachers who tried to prevent soldiers from taking down the posters were assaulted and pepper sprayed in their faces.

Adel al-Shaer, Murad Mufarrih, and Alaa Hmeid were treated on the scene for the inflammation caused by the pepper spray. After Israeli troops stormed the school, clashes broke out in the town between Israeli soldiers and schoolchildren. Witnesses said Israeli soldiers chased the youth through the town’s alleys and showered the area in tear gas. No injuries were reported. An Israeli army spokesperson said that they were looking into the case.

The Israeli military presence in Tuqu has escalated since al-Umour was shot dead during clashes in the town, when the Israeli army claimed that the teen had been the ‘main instigator’ among Palestinian youth throwing stones at border police. However, video footage showed Israeli forces running towards the teenager’s motionless body moments after he was shot, as he was lying in a field at least 100 metres away from the road where the clashes were taking place.

Investigations by BADIL prompted the Palestinian NGO to brand the shooting as an ‘extrajudicial killing,’ asserting that the teen ‘could not have presented a lethal threat to the well-protected Israeli border police from a distance of around 100 metres, and the use of live ammunition against him was therefore unjustified.’

Following the incident, at least seven Palestinian youth have been detained in Tuqu during overnight raids, while Israeli forces previously installed a military base at the western entrance to the town, periodically preventing residents from entering or leaving. Israeli forces also raided the village earlier this month to take over a Palestinian home that has a view of the site of al-Umour’s killing, turning the house into a military post.

• Palestinian youth from Qalandiya refugee camp blocked off a main raid connecting Ramallah and Jerusalem in the central occupied West Bank as well as surrounding side streets on Sunday morning to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to intervene in the case of two hunger strikers from the camp imprisoned by Israel.

Protesters used dumpsters to close the roads, creating severe traffic congestion from the Semiramis neighbourhood of Ramallah to Qalandiya. Dozens of children were unable to access their schools in the northern outskirts of Jerusalem, including in Qalandiya, Kafr Aqab, Semiramis, and the airport area.

Locals said clashes also broke out in the early morning hours between youth from Qalandiya refugee camp and Israeli forces stationed near the Israeli army’s Qalandiya checkpoint, with youth throwing stones and empty bottles at the soldiers who responded by firing tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets at demonstrators. No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokesperson said they were looking into reports of the clashes.

Qalandiya refugee camp residents Jamal Abu al-Leil, 50, and 47-year-old Raed Fayez Mteir declared hunger strikes on Feb. 16, after being imprisoned by Israel without charge or trial for one year under the widely condemned policy of administrative detention. Israeli authorities have issued six-month administrative detention orders for the two prisoners three times since they were detained.

Abu al-Leil is a former member of Fatah’s revolutionary council, while Mteir is head of the Qalandiya youth centre. Both have been previously detained by Israel several times. Last week, Israeli authorities transferred the two hunger strikers out of Ktziot prison, sending Abu al-Leil to Eshel prison and Mteir to Ashkelon prison.

The two have joined imprisoned journalist Mohammed al-Qiq who has been on hunger strike for at least 20 days to protest his administrative detention. Al-Qiq, who lives in Ramallah and is originally from Dura in the southern occupied West Bank district of Hebron, was released from prison in May last year after he refused food for a gruelling 94 days – also in protest of his administrative detention at the time.

However, al-Qiq was redetained in mid-January after he participated in a protest in the occupied West Bank city of Bethlehem demanding the release of bodies of slain Palestinians held in Israeli custody.

Al-Qiq’s previous imprisonment by Israel – widely condemned by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and other rights groups – and subsequent hunger strike cast a spotlight on Israel’s use of administrative detention, its arbitrary imprisonment of Palestinians, and the concerted targeting of Palestinian journalists.

Al-Qiq was one of a number of prominent Palestinian hunger strikers in 2016, who included the Balboul brothers who went without food for 77 and 79 days, Malik al-Qadi for 68 days, and Bilal Kayid for 71 days.

While Israeli authorities claim the withholding of evidence during administrative detention, which allows detention for three- to six-month renewable intervals, is essential for state security concerns, rights groups have instead claimed the policy allows Israeli authorities to hold Palestinians for an indefinite period of time without showing any evidence that could justify their detentions.

Rights groups have claimed that Israel’s administrative detention policy has been used as an attempt to disrupt Palestinian political and social processes, notably targeting Palestinian politicians, activists, and journalists. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has long been accused of their security coordination with Israel and what critics have called ‘a revolving door policy’ of funneling Palestinians from PA jails into Israeli prisons through politically-motivated arrests.

According to Addameer, as of January, 6,500 Palestinians were being held in Israeli prisons, 536 of whom were being held under administrative detention.

• Palestinian Minister of Waqf (Islamic endowment) and Religious Affairs Sheikh Yousif Ideis has warned ‘of the ongoing attempts by the (Israeli) occupation authorities’ to destroy Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem through the daily excavations being carried out under the compound.

He said in a statement on Sunday that ongoing excavations under the grounds of the compound could lead to a ‘religious war in the region,’ which he said the Israeli state was igniting every day.

Ideis argued that the Israeli measures represented ‘obvious violations’ of resolutions established by international bodies, the latest being a UNESCO resolution passed last October denouncing Israeli violations in the occupied territory, mainly focusing on policies around Al-Aqsa, which the agency claimed increase tensions between Palestinian worshipers and Jewish visitors, while sparking fears among Palestinians that Israel could further deny their right to access Al-Aqsa.

The resolution notably expressed ‘deep concern’ regarding the illegal demolitions of Umayyad, Ottoman, and Mamluk remains, as well as other intrusive works and excavations in and around the compound, and called upon Israel to halt the measures according to the state’s obligations as an occupying power.

Israel frequently permits excavations and archaeological digs in occupied East Jerusalem, specifically around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, that threaten the structural integrity of Palestinian homes and holy sites in the area. In the past, tunnels have partially collapsed and caused holes to open up above them, threatening Palestinian homes, roads, and a local mosque.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, cherished as the third holiest site in Islam, is located in East Jerusalem, a part of the internationally recognised Palestinian territory which has been occupied by the Israeli army for almost 50 years.

It is also venerated as Judaism’s most holy place, as it sits where Jews believe the First and Second Temples once stood. The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and some Jewish extremists have called for the destruction of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to build a Third Temple in its place.