Israeli soldiers seized on Friday a truck full of tents and emergency aid that European diplomats had been trying to deliver to Palestinians
whose homes were demolished this week, Reuters reported.
Soldiers were reportedly throwing sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the West Bank, and pulling a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.
"They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity," French diplomat Marion Castaing said.
"This is how international law is being respected here," she said, covered with dust.
French diplomat dragged out of truck (Photo: Reuters)
Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel's high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.
Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.
Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.
Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union's political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.
"It's shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments," said one EU
diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.
"(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren't being protected," he said.
In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank
and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.
United Nations' humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories James Rawley expressed "deep concern" after the incident on Friday.
"I call on the Israeli authorities to respect their obligations as an occupying power to protect communities under their responsibility, particularly in stopping the demolition of Palestinian homes and property," Rawley said in a statement of its services.
Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.
Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.
"What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they're obligated to respect international law," the unnamed EU diplomat said.
The Israeli military said soldiers were enforcing a court order against illegal building in the area, but it is looking into the incident. It said forces used non-lethal riot dispersal means when the Palestinian protesters assaulted the forces with rocks.
According to the IDF
, "A group of dozens of Palestinians and European activists tried to construct an illegal outpost by erecting tents near the village of Hemdat in the northern Jordan River Valley, a move similar to what they have attempted about a week ago.
"This group of activists and Palestinians were hurling stones at the IDF troops that have arrived to evacuate them, as they did last week, but the group continued to try and build the encampment using tents they had brought with them," the statement noted, adding that the areas was announced "closed military zone.
The IDF stated that three people who were disturbing the peace refused to evacuate and attacked the soldiers, which led to their arrest and to the confiscation of their truck.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Paul Hirschson said a formal complaint might be filed with the French over the diplomat's involvement. "If she did participate then a formal complaint will be filed because that is not the way diplomats behave," he said.
Yoav Zitun, AP, AFP contributed to this report
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