Following Itamar killings, village of Awarta faced mass arrests, violence and massive destruction during five days of curfew

Israel/Palestine

During the five-day curfew in the village of Awarta, south of Nablus, the Israeli military raided homes and detained around 300 people, the youngest 14 years old. Some of the men were taken to the local boy school where they had to leave their fingerprints and DNA and some were taken to the military base at Huwwra checkpoint. According to the mayor, Qays Awwad, 55 men are still in Israeli custody. Some of the detainees reported that they had been abused by the soldiers while they were detained and handcuffed. It has been reported that a 75-year-old woman was handcuffed and had to sit on the ground while the soldiers went through her home, and that an 80-year-old woman was beaten by soldiers.

Three Scandinavian ISM activists were in Awarta during the five-day curfew, from Saturday afternoon until Wednesday noon. From the roofs of people’s houses they witnessed how the Israeli soliders went into homes, arrested men and made the families wait outside while they raided their homes, resulting in large scale damage to property. The ISM activists also visited homes that soldiers had searched to find broken windows, cut fuse-cables, smashed furniture, and polluted drinking water caused by Israeli soldiers.

Hundreds of soldiers entered the village in military vehicles early on the morning of the 12th of March, following the murder of five members of a settler family in the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Itamar. According to the soldiers, they were searching for the murderer and would continue until they found one. One soldier told ISM activists, ”We will search this village until we find someone.”  In the process of ”searching” the houses, the soldiers damaged framed pictures, furniture, TV sets, gas heaters, smashed holes in floors and walls, stole money and jewlery, and poured liquids over computers. The Israeli forces occupied around 30 houses to sleep in during the four nights they remained in Awarta. In some of the houses they evicted the families, who had to seek shelter outdoors or in neighbour’s homes during the night; in others they forced the families to stay in one room as the soldiers occupied the rest of the house. In occupied houses the soldiers defecated in the rooms and used the families’ bed sheets as toilet paper.

A lot of the houses were ”searched” and wrecked up to three times over five days. The soldiers did not seem to follow any apparent pattern when choosing which house to search or whom to arrest; ”It all looked very random ” one activist said. In at least one case, on Monday the 14th of March, the soldiers still did not know the name of the man that they had previously arrested and had to ask his family for it. The man that they had arrested was village council member Salim Qawaric. Approximately 25 soliders entered his house, causing severe damage on the family’s property while the family had to wait in the backyard. The following day the soldiers came back and searched the home once again, resulting in further damage to the family’s home and property.

The ISM activists were not allowed to take pictures, and when they did it anyway, the soldiers pointed their guns at them shouting: ”Do not take pictures!” One of the activists had her memory card stolen by a soldier who took her camera from her by force.

During the curfew, many families ran short of gas, food, water and medicine.

There have been numerous reports of physical abuse. According to eyewitnesses, Mashmod Zaqah, 28, had his hands cuffed behind his back and was blindfolded before he was beaten by at least six soldiers during a period of two hours; periodically he lost consciousness and couldn’t feel his legs or fingers. His family managed to smuggle him to Rafidia hospital in Nablus. He suffered a dislocated shoulder, back injuries, and a badly twisted ankle.

Accourding to eyewitnesses, around 300 Israeli settlers, of whom some were masked, entered the village on Saturday the 12th of March and threw stones at windows, injuring two Awarta residents by breaking their arms. Villagers tried to protect homes while Israeli soldiers responded by shooting teargas at the villagers.

It has been reported that children were bitten by the Israeli military dogs that the soldiers had with them. A young physically disabled man was bitten by a dog which resulted in his hospitalisation. Loay Medjet Abdet is now scared to go inside his own home because he believes the dogs will attack him again.

For the activists, it was clear that the repression against Awarta was only a form of collective punishment. When one activist asked: ”Why do you have to punish all this people?” The solider responded with: ”We have to punish these people so they will understand.”

Even though this kind of systematic collective punishment is illegal according to International law, is it frequently used by the Israeli military all over the West Bank and in Gaza.

When medical vehicles tried to access the area they were stopped by Israeli forces. ISM activists went to the checkpoint near Awarta on March 15 and reported that ambulances were being held several hours before they could enter the village. As an occupying force, Israel is obligated under article 56 of the Geneva Conventions not to hinder the work of medical personnel in a conflict zone.

About Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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  1. Potsherd2
    March 19, 2011, 9:08 pm

    we will search this village until we find someone

    And it doesn’t matter who.

  2. MRW
    March 19, 2011, 9:29 pm

    There’s nothing left to say but that these Jews have become barbarians, pigs.

    Jesus, this is hard to read. The American Jewish community has to rise up against this.

    • Chaos4700
      March 19, 2011, 9:59 pm

      Well goddamn it. What I said was true but the censors won’t let it past. Compare and contrast for yourselves, then.

    • Avi
      March 20, 2011, 12:58 am

      MRW,

      This is no reason for alarm. You see, this kind of stuff, these abuses, this barbarity, have been going on for more than 64 years.

      Every new generation of Palestinians experiences this persecution and abuse first hand. There is no need for any Palestinian to tell the younger generation of past oppression or persecution. Unlike Jewish families throughout the world where the oral history of persecution and oppression (i.e. the holocaust) must be verbally passed on from one generation to the next, and movies have to be made to remind new generations of said history, a 4- year-old Palestinian need only open his eyes, listen to the sounds, and undergo the experience of an army terrorizing him and his family in the wee hours of the morning to learn of his people’s collective memory.

      When Palestinians in Israel were still under Military Rule — between 1948 and 1966 — such actions by Israeli forces were common. Israeli units would enter a village, round up all the inhabitants and lock them in the local school. Then, they would go house to house and trash everything. Olive oil would be poured on flour, wheat would be spilled to the ground, in other words, all the villagers’ food and supplies would be destroyed and damaged.

      This ingrained in the minds of many a Palestinian inside the Green Line who was the boss, who was in charge of the fate of Palestinians — like prisoners at the mercy of their captors.

      • MRW
        March 20, 2011, 2:38 am

        Avi, I’ve been on this board for years, and somehow I didn’t know that. For example, I thought the defecate thing was an anomaly during Operation Cast Lead. I thought the persistent sadistic child abuse started after 2000 with Bush’s lax Israeli policies. I thought the increasing soldier actions were a desperation move from an Israel unhinged. I feel stupid and naïve for not knowing this (even though looking back you’ve been writing this all along). The foolish feeling I have right now equals my revulsion.

        Thank you for the clear explanation.

      • annie
        March 20, 2011, 3:33 am

        i want to thank the international solidarity movement (and of course mondoweiss) for bringing us this report. i already knew reprisals had begun and i knew it was worse than the smidgen of reporting coming out of khaleej online and other non msm sources. i imagined it was this bad for reasons avi mentioned. still, it stuns and sickens me. it’s sickening and grotesque.

      • MRW
        March 20, 2011, 3:54 am

        It’s sadism.

      • Chaos4700
        March 20, 2011, 4:41 am

        It’s worse than sadism, actually. Sadists merely take pleasure in causing pain. These people take pleasure in utterly destroying people’s lives and erasing them from the face of the earth.

      • Hu Bris
        March 20, 2011, 9:56 am

        Conspicuous by their absence in this thread, Professional Condemners:

        Richard Witty a.k.a. The Resident Dick™,

        Fuster a.k.a. The Resident Liar™,

        eee(k!) a.k.a. The Resident Psycho™ &

        hophmi a.k.a. The Resident Rabid Asshat™

      • Chaos4700
        March 20, 2011, 10:18 am

        Color me thoroughly unshocked. Incidentally, you’ve come up with a very apt spotter’s guide there, Hu Bris.

      • James North
        March 20, 2011, 12:26 pm

        Hu Bris: You would think the Fearsome Foursome would issue perfunctory condemnations of the Israeli actions, if only to try and establish a little credibility.
        But look at Richard’s comment below (March 20, 10:33 am). He comments an average of 14 times a day, but he can’t produce a single sentence condemning the latest instance of Israeli collective punishment. Instead, he tries to change the subject, to Libya.

      • Pamela Olson
        March 20, 2011, 1:09 pm

        Israeli soldiers shit all over the place. I can think of three stories off the top of my head that affected people I know personally of soldiers shitting in their office, in their kitchen pots, etc. And then there are all the reports I’ve read about. Never mind the settlers diverting their sewage into villages and their fields.

        Like two-year-old kids or naughty dogs, they shit all over the place when they’re displeased.

      • Hu Bris
        March 20, 2011, 2:33 pm

        @ James North – yes, well as he said himself recently , he “never lies frankly”

        blatantly,
        frequently,
        badly,

        but never ever frankly

      • Mooser
        March 20, 2011, 3:36 pm

        MRW, hyaven’t you ever taken a historical look at colonialism before? How on earth do you think it is done, by digging your tow in the sand and saying “Oh, come on, couldn’t you make a little room for us, please?”

        When it’s all said and done, the shorter list will be the things they didn’t do.

      • fuster
        March 20, 2011, 6:45 pm

        hey, brismeat, fuster is all lower-case. thank you for your time and attention.

    • eljay
      March 20, 2011, 9:32 am

      Where’s RW to speak out against the injustices being committed, to remind Israel that “the PRESENT is what matters”, to decry the use of “belligerent reprisals”, to condemn the dehumanization of ‘the Other’?

      Oh, that’s right, he’s a Zio-supremacist hypocrite.

    • seafoid
      March 20, 2011, 6:17 pm

      “In occupied houses the soldiers defecated in the rooms and used the families’ bed sheets as toilet paper”

      This is standard procedure for Israeli soldiers. It is all about dehumanisation.
      They shat all over the place when they retook Ramallah in 2002.

      The downside for Israel is that these soldiers will never be able to accept justice.
      Most of them won’t be able to live in the binational state.

  3. James North
    March 19, 2011, 10:38 pm

    Thanks to the ISM for a valuable, first-hand report. This is one of the reasons I frequent Mondoweiss — to read things that won’t be in my New York Times.

  4. Philip Munger
    March 20, 2011, 12:11 am

    What a foolish, oafish way to investigate a possible crime scene. Such louts cannot continue to be looked upon as credible by their countrymen on the other side of the Green Line.

    I know – it has happened countless times in the past. I sense a change coming, though. A possible example:

    Thursday, the Bartlett Democratic Club of Anchorage hosted an exchange between a couple representing Alaska for Palestine, on the one hand, and the Government of Israel, on the other.

    Alaska AIPAC flew up Ora Miriam Katz, Director of Government Affairs for the Consulate General of Israel’s San Francisco office to present their side.

    Her remarks began with a typical glowing portrait of many of the things Israel is – a vibrant environment for aspects of what one can characterize as progressive thought – gays in the military, socialized medicine, equal rights in many areas for Jews, Muslims and Christians. In much of what she initially said, she was accurate. Israeli society deserves credit for what has been achieved in these areas. No doubt, when she addresses the NRA or a chamber of commerce, she drops the gays in the military and socialized medicine stuff.

    Unfortunately, Ms. Katz then went on to state a number of falsehoods.
    Among them, she mischaracterized the current state of the ongoing Israeli investigation into the awful deaths last week of five members of a West Bank Israeli settler family, in the gated community of Itamar. She stated that “Fatah’s El-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade has claimed responsibility for these hiduous murders.” Twice – once in her presentation, once in response to a question.

    I confronted Ms. Katz about this after the talk, and she reiterated that view, taken aback that I had my information from a credible Israeli source there to show her on my iPhone. As we went on in conversation, I detected what I perceived to be a sense of shame in her that she has to keep on spouting these lies, one after another, as she does her job.

    I invited her to come back up here in the Summer. Maybe some change will come.

    • Egbert
      March 20, 2011, 5:17 am

      Not so long ago, a family of 6 Israelis were brutally murdered in their home. The victims included a child of 3 and a baby aged 3 months. The police investigated this murder properly and brought the alleged murderer and accomplice to trial. It turns out there was a serious disagreement between the victim and assailant. There was also no outpouring of demands that this attack be condemned, nor attempts to implicate a whole population group for the actions of an individual. Two very different treatments for two very similar crimes. The alleged murderer of the Oshrenko family was Jewish, making aliyah in 2004, whilst the murderer of the Itmar family is unknown.

      link to jpost.com

      • annie
        March 20, 2011, 5:35 am

        the murderer of the oshrenko family made a full confession so i don’t think he is an ‘alleged’ murderer.

      • Egbert
        March 20, 2011, 7:08 am

        I believe he withdrew his confession alleging it was forced out of hm following abuse in custody. He is the alleged murderer until he has been tried and found guilty. Has he been found guilty?

      • Sumud
        March 20, 2011, 6:12 am

        There was also no outpouring of demands that this attack be condemned, nor attempts to implicate a whole population group for the actions of an individual.

        This is probably symptomatic of Israeli hasbara on it’s last legs.

        I was just looking on the Itamar killings wikipedia page. Scroll down and look at the Reactions / Supranational & International section. Why did the UN, Quartet, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States all feel it was necessary to issue a public statement on this? It’s completely ridiculous! I’ll bet because the Israeli Ambassadors were on the blower quick smart badgering them to do so.

        All Israel has left is these rare instances of violence and they’ve been quick to milk it before the truth of the identity of the murderer(s) is known for sure.* Or rather, before the public knows: amid rumours of an arrest a gag order is now in place:

        The Jerusalem Post reports that Palestinian media doubt Israeli claims that the killings were committed by Palestinians and report that a Thai worker who was employed in the settlement had been arrested on suspicion of the killings. A gag order imposed on the investigation prevented Israeli authorities from commenting.

        *It’s still not going to stop the downwards slide of Israel’s reputation. Apartheid’s gonna do that…

      • fuster
        March 20, 2011, 10:39 am

        Sumud,

        they probably felt a need to issue the condemnation for all the usual reasons that condemnations are issued.

        ridiculous?

      • Chaos4700
        March 20, 2011, 12:54 pm

        It’s ridiculous to condemn the murder of five Israeli children and be utterly silent on the murder of over 300 Palestinian children.

      • fuster
        March 20, 2011, 1:15 pm

        I hadn’t noticed any such silence. I read hundreds of condemnations.

      • annie
        March 20, 2011, 1:48 pm

        Why did the UN, Quartet, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States all feel it was necessary to issue a public statement on this?

        exactly, we do not demand the whole world to condemn our high school massacres. the initial assumption this was carried out as political retribution is preposterous.

      • annie
        March 20, 2011, 1:50 pm

        you read hundreds of condemnations from governments around the world?

        “Quartet, Australia, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States all feel it was necessary to issue a public statement on this?”

        links?

      • Hu Bris
        March 20, 2011, 2:22 pm

        The Resident Liar™ said: “they probably felt a need to issue the condemnation for all the usual reasons that condemnations are issued.” & “I hadn’t noticed any such silence. I read hundreds of condemnations.”

        Not from the leaders of Australia, Canada, United Kingdom & United States you didn’t.

        little miss fussy behaving EXACTLY as one might expect a complete liar to behave

      • Mooser
        March 20, 2011, 3:42 pm

        I keep on telling you, exactly like cocaine and alcohol. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. Exact same grandiosity and complete fantastic mendacity. Followed by amnesia.
        Ziocaine. And just think, they make it themselves!

      • Pamela Olson
        March 20, 2011, 1:12 pm

        There were also no plans to bulldoze the muderer’s family’s home, invade his town and blow down doors in dead-of-night arrest raids and harass entire Jewish towns, assassinate Jewish extremist leaders, or impose a full closure on Israel.

  5. annie
    March 20, 2011, 5:09 am

    Israelis retaliate for killing of settlers

    “It’s torture, collective punishment,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian politician who surveyed the damage on Friday, adding that this was one of the most intense Israeli incursions into a Palestinian area in the West Bank since the height of the second intifada.

    “They beat children, arrested people haphazardly, destroyed houses. I saw one house where the family was shot at by the soldiers when they came to enter it. I saw an infant child who was injured because a soldier knocked his father down while he was holding him.”

    Human-rights workers, Palestinian officials and residents say between 45 to 60 residents still remain in Israeli custody, in many cases after soldiers stormed their homes, blindfolded and beat male family members at gunpoint and hauled them off to prison.

    ………….

    Hisham, 30, a schoolteacher, said soldiers commandeered both the roof of his family home and the first floor. Meanwhile, he and four other family members were detained in their living room for nearly 12 hours.

    He said the soldiers used the first floor as a lounge where they watched television, slept and littered the ground with cigarette butts. During their searches, he added, the soldiers overturned tables, broke dishes and stole money.

    At one point, said Hisham, who declined to give his last name because he feared Israeli reprisals: “It was cold and we had the heater on. A second soldier went into a room and threw over the table, tossing everything around, and a chair fell on the heater. It caught fire, so he came out and got me and made me put out the fire.”

    …………

    When soldiers came to his home, Mr Abdat said: “I told the soldiers that they didn’t have to destroy anything,” he said. “After that, they put me and my family in a room and began destroying things.”

    His cousin, Rami Abdat, 33, who lives nearby, said he began hiding family valuables after neighbours said money and jewellery had been stolen during the searches. “Even my grandparents had money on their counter and they [soldiers] stole it,” he said.

    Faisal Qawareek, a 48-year-old resident of Awarta, said the soldiers detained four of his sons. “They took their IDs, blindfolded the older ones, tied their hands behind their backs and threw them on the ground and hit them. I said, ‘Why are you beating them?’”

    Last year, the bodies of another of Mr Qawareek’s sons, Mohammed, 19, and a cousin, Salah, 19, were found shot dead near Itamar, their hands tied behind their back.

    He is taking legal action against the Israeli soldiers whom he accuses of the killings, which human rights groups, including Al Haq, say were carried out in the style of an execution.

    Mr Qawareek suspects Mohammed’s death is the reason why Israeli commandos began their crackdown in the village by first tossing stun grenades at his home and firing live rounds that pockmarked, and even pierced through, its exterior.

    “I yelled at them, ‘I know why you are doing this. Soldiers killed our son and now you are coming after us’,” he said.

  6. Gaius Baltar
    March 20, 2011, 8:32 am

    Lidice.

  7. Citizen
    March 20, 2011, 9:03 am

    Meanwhile, resident self-defined “liberal Zionists” like our very own regular commenter, Sir Richard Witty Of Massacusetts, continues with his deep angst that everday Americans, (perhaps upon learning the key players greasing Bush Jr’s bent to attack Iraq, followed by their bent urging ever more boycotts of Iran followed by ultimate bombing [and the ensuing WW3?], and their hand in the dismissal of the Goldstone Report and the US UN veto of Israel regarding illegal settlements, and maybe also upon learning the 9/11 attackers’ declared motives, and also upon learning the key players in the Fed Reserve/Treasury/Wall St bailout of Big Banking at taxpayer expense & with commerical & investment banking still merged,) will one day appear at his door sporting swastika armbands. Yep, right there at the door of Dick Witty, the guy who tells us all we should forget the past and look at the present. I guess in his mind the present daily reality of Palestinians is not as important as his vivid imagination pertaining to when, 2020? Yet simultaeously, Dick reminds us of Weimar Germany, of the past over half a century ago, and of the past, ancient biblical desert Hebrew times… Who lives less in the present than Dick Witty? Well, maybe the chicken hawks who keep sending 1% of our nation to die and be maimed while Americans starve and Ex Vets sleep homeless on the streets.

    • Richard Witty
      March 20, 2011, 10:33 am

      The present to the future is the territory that we can affect is the point.

      I want an outcome that from that approach applied respectfully leaves the two communities healthy and in a good neighbor to good neighbor relationship.

      Its takes acknowledgement by BOTH communities that they harmed the other, to accomplish.

      To demonize only Israel is false and won’t achieve anything of merit, and similarly to demonize only Palestinians is false and won’t achieve anything of merit.

      Citizen,
      Today, the US sent military planes to bomb Libya. Your thoughts? Good thing, bad thing?

      • Chaos4700
        March 20, 2011, 12:55 pm

        You haven’t said a single goddamn word about what Israelis are doing in Awarta, have you?

      • Pamela Olson
        March 20, 2011, 1:14 pm

        He appears to be completely impervious to things like cognitive dissonance and obvious hypocrisy. Both sides, both sides, the elephant and the mouse, let’s listen to them both, and meanwhile, who cares if the elephant steps on the mouse? At least I’m fair and balanced! I’ve maintained my perfect record of “neutrality” in the face of oppression!

      • Hu Bris
        March 20, 2011, 2:19 pm

        The Resident Dick™ said: “Today, the US sent military planes to bomb Libya. Your thoughts? Good thing, bad thing?

        Chaos4700 said: “You haven’t said a single goddamn word about what Israelis are doing in Awarta, have you?”

        Richard Witty behaving EXACTLY as one might expect a complete Dick to behave

      • Mooser
        March 20, 2011, 3:50 pm

        “To demonize only Israel….”

        Look, we all need to play by the same rules, so let’s get the definition of “demonise” agreed upon, so we can all hang together instead of hanging around separately, as the Floundering Father says.
        So, let it be agreed that to “demonise Israel” is to express any unfavorable fact, or compare Israel’s actions to it’s words, its charter, or legal and moral norms.

  8. Mooser
    March 20, 2011, 4:00 pm

    Exactly what does Peter Beinart want me to do for those people? I have very infrequently littered in my lifetime. But I’m supposed to somehow fix people who shit on other people’s stuff out of racial or ethnic hatred, and in conditions which they hold all the power? Yeah, I bet we have a lot to say to each other. And I think at my age I will not find their exhortations that I could find my Jewish self in Israel or its support will be convincing. I prefer indoor plumbing.
    Oh well, maybe it should be part of those “wonderful” Birthright Tours, you get to go into a Palestinian house and shit on the walls and furnishings. I bet that’ll make committed Zionists out of young American Jews. Imagine how awed your Gentile friend will be, after he shows you the cheesy faux-leather bound Bible he won at Bible Camp for Scripture knowledge, when you tell him what you did on your summer vacation!

    Oh sorry, just musing, mere persiflage.

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