Nighttime Israeli raid on Bir Zeit University yields — truck full of Hamas flags

Israel/Palestine
on 34 Comments
Israeli soldiers raiding Bir Zeit University in the West Bank in the first night incursion since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, 19 June 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Israeli soldiers raiding Bir Zeit University in the West Bank in the first night incursion since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, 19 June 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Since the three Israeli teens went missing while hitchhikinging at the Gush Etzion settlement bloc last week, just after midnight—every night—the Israeli army reoccupies the West Bank. Aside from patrolling and conducting arrests in every major Palestinian city in the early morning hours, it also raided Bir Zeit University, a ten-minute drive from Ramallah and the most esteemed Palestinian institute of higher education, after dark for the first time since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.

Around 1:30 am, 12 beige armored jeeps, one armored flatbed truck, and one white armored security services jeep drove inside the university grounds. At each campus entrance, another military vehicle blocked the gate. A handful of conscript soldiers stood guard next to Bir Zeit University security who were unable to prevent the military from taking control of the school.

Israeli soldiers in front of the Bir Zeit University student union. 19 June 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Israeli soldiers in front of the Bir Zeit University student union. 19 June 2014. (Photo: Allison Deger)

At that time around 30 students were holding a sit-in to protest the detention of three of their classmates who were beaten and arrested by the Palestinian Authority days ago at a demonstration in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. When the army swept through their encampment, the students ran off, leaving behind blankets, prayer rugs, and a ring of notebooks. It looked like a study group had been chased off.

Because these students are members of the campus Hamas political party, meaning they run in university not government elections, and make decisions about cafeteria food and not armed attacks on Israel, their relatively small act of dissidence had drawn ire from the Israeli army. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is in the midst of a crackdown on anything and anyone affiliated with Hamas. “We have evidence that Hamas is responsible,” for the abduction of the teens, said the IDF over the weekend although until no evidence has been publicly disclosed.

Israeli soldiers confiscate Hamas flags and banners from West Bank university student union. (Photo Allison Deger)

Israeli soldiers confiscate Hamas flags and banners from West Bank university student union. (Photo Allison Deger)

Then some 50 soldiers went to work searching for green banners and Hamas flags inside the student union. Israeli forces backed a truck in front of the main doors and loaded it with the Hamas paraphernalia, including two red drums that snared as they were lobbed onto the heap of shiny green fabric. No sleeping students were arrested. A few Israeli journalists embedded with the soldiers milled back and forth through the lines, which prevented Palestinian journalists from entering buildings on campus.

Around 3:30 am the army convoy began exiting the university. Those that stayed behind went into the science building. Nearby, around ten Palestinian youth congregated and threw stones in the direction of the military. Others blocked the road to the school with piles of large rocks. The army fired tear gas and rubber bullets. A few hills over in Surda, clashes also took place.

The objective of finding the missing students seems absent from many of the army’s undertakings over the past few days. Most prominently, the show of force to abscond with a truckload of Hamas ornamentation has raised concern from within the Israeli government that the army is bent on purging any sign of Hamas in the West Banks rather than carrying out a rescue mission. “The central effort here must be to find the kidnapped teens and bring them home, and not a focus on toppling the Palestinian reconciliation government,” Meretz’s Zahava Gal-On said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a briefing this afternoon.

The IDF has mustered a kind of military presence that has not occurred since the troubled second Intifada, yet there is no popular uprising to match these nightly incursions. The West Bank’s largest city Hebron, is under Israeli control. The army moved into several private Palestinian homes in the city of 800,000 and can be seen on foot in the streets of Area A– the regions that the Oslo agreement delineated to be under Palestinian security control.

Israeli soliders talk with Bir Zeit University security after taking control of campus entrances. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Israeli soliders talk with Bir Zeit University security after taking control of campus entrances. (Photo: Allison Deger)

Hebron is considered a Hamas stronghold, and along with the northern West Bank city of Nablus it has been hit the hardest in these operations. Two nights ago a source close to the Palestinian District Commander’s Office told me the Israeli army contacted the Palestinian Authority and informed them that they were going to raid the city. Palestinian police were instructed to steer clear of the army’s locations. A Palestinian human rights worker also confirmed that the municipal police station was curiously closed. That same night an Israeli commander said the army was reactivating all of the Intifada-era “flying checkpoints” between Nablus and Jenin. A trip that should take an hour now takes seven.

Since last Friday the Israeli army has arrested 280 Palestinians, of whom 200 have affiliations with Hamas. Last night, 30 were arrested, the night before 65, the night before 125. The decrease in numbers arrested does not signify a lessening of the army’s presence. Before daybreak in the village of Kfar Nema in Ramallah district, hundreds of soldiers entered the sleepy town. And in Yatta near Hebron, Palestinian activists reported that the army was digging up graves in the town’s cemetery and breaking into the Orphan’s Society.

In the past few days over 100 buildings have been commandeered by Israeli forces. In places like Hebron, explosive devices are used to break open metal gates in front of homes and offices, so the army can confiscate any cameras mounted on exteriors. Local journalists have reported that the army confiscated computers and other electronics.

In the afternoons, West Bank cities seem unaffected, but by nightfall the streets are empty in most urban centers. Issa Amro, an activist with Youth Against Settlements in Hebron, says he fears “the army is working gradually to occupy Hebron completely.” Ten checkpoints have been erected in and around Hebron in less than a week. There are “more restrictions on our movement. We are not allowed to leave the container checkpoint. We are not allowed to leave the Hebron District.”

34 Responses

  1. a blah chick
    June 19, 2014, 7:00 pm

    So this is what it has come to, confiscating flags and shooting teenagers. This is how you get to be a hero in the IDF, beating up college students and housewives. No wonder they got their butts kicked in Lebanon.

    • tree
      June 19, 2014, 11:23 pm

      So this is what it has come to, confiscating flags and shooting teenagers.

      It’s been that way for decades. I remember reading an account from Israeli American Aron Trauring back in 2002 or so which went into his IDF service during the first Intifada in 1987. He mentioned that most of the time spent by his unit was concerned with confiscating Palestinian flags and physically abusing Palestinians who dared to display such flag. That was over 25 years ago.

      I tried to find the article again but it seems to have fallen down the internet rabbit hole, along with his blog, which was quite good.

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      June 20, 2014, 4:25 am

      Yup. The comically overrated IDF is essentially a colonial police force rather than an army. Look at what happened to them in Lebanon – twice – and remember the pictures of the ‘elite commandos’ crying, actually crying, when faced with the might of humanitarian activists on the Mavi Marmara.

      It makes me laugh that they are still dining out on the ‘success’ of battles fought against demotivated 3rd world armies 4 decades ago, long before most of their current grunts were even born. Do people actually think this bunch of pampered mamas’ boys are going to take on the Republican Guard? LOL!

    • seafoid
      June 20, 2014, 9:47 am

      That’s because Zionism is lost.
      2014 and they might reoccupy Hebron. They gave up 80% of the city in 1994.
      Zionism is going nowhere .

  2. a blah chick
    June 19, 2014, 7:02 pm

    Also what is with the grave robbing?

    • Walid
      June 19, 2014, 8:10 pm

      Maybe harvesting organs; Israelis have a track record in that domain.

      • seafoid
        June 20, 2014, 9:47 am

        They are probably looking for some hearts for their soldiers.

  3. Daniel Rich
    June 19, 2014, 7:29 pm

    Q: The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is in the midst of a crackdown on anything and anyone affiliated with Hamas.

    R: Really? They could have fooled me. Very bad poker players, unless showing your hand of freshly dealt cards in the new craze to beat.

    Of course, these kids can’t be ‘found/discovered/rescued’ too soon, for that will blow the PR coup de grâce out off the water.

    All hail to Mary, Queen of Sco-

    Ouch!

  4. Karl Dubhe
    June 19, 2014, 8:27 pm

    Why would the army want to confiscate all of the surveillance cameras?

    • a blah chick
      June 19, 2014, 11:38 pm

      Because they don’t want footage showing up that will contradict their version of events. Witness what happened with the shootings outside Ofer prison. The only reason it got the coverage it did was because cameras located at the local businesses captured the shootings and it was obvious things did not go down as the army said. The military wants to make sure that the ONLY version on film, from now on, will be theirs.

    • Kay24
      June 20, 2014, 9:08 am

      The criminals want to make sure there are no videos taping their vicious crimes.
      They have made sure the truth does not surface, and in the US, Americans do not believe what the Palestinians say anyway, as the media continuously paints the occupier as the victim. If they are honest and not afraid, they would welcome those CCTV cameras.

  5. Walid
    June 19, 2014, 8:39 pm

    “At that time around 30 students were holding a sit-in to protest the detention of three of their classmates who were beaten and arrested by the Palestinian Authority days ago at a demonstration in support of hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners. ”

    Maybe the day will come when Palestinian leaders will be on the side of the Palestinian people.

  6. talknic
    June 19, 2014, 9:26 pm

    Red snare drums?? OMG those devious Palestinians, how could they!!

    • a blah chick
      June 19, 2014, 11:46 pm

      And I’m pretty sure those drums, those RED drums (hint hint) were probably used to send signals to the kidnappers!

      I think they’ve found the smoking gun, er, drum.

    • Daniel Rich
      June 20, 2014, 12:50 am

      @ talknic,

      Q: Red snare drums??

      R: Is there another way to declare war?

      • talknic
        June 20, 2014, 8:52 am

        @ Daniel Rich “Is there another way to declare war?”

        Yes. Obviously.

        In the eye (sic) of even the most moderate self respecting zionutter, just act of playing those dangerous red snare drums in public would constitute an act of war link to mojolaw.com

        4. War is not only an act, but a state or condition, for nations are said to be at war not only when their armies are engaged, so as to be in the very act of contention, but also when, they have any matter of controversy or dispute subsisting between them which they are determined to decide by the use of force, and have declared publicly, or by their acts, their determination so to decide it.

        and of course in the eye (sic) of the same zionutter, at the first snare beat or even the sight of a red snare drum would constitute an offensive war

        5. National wars are said to be offensive or defensive. War is offensive on the part of that government which commits the first act of violence; it is defensive on the part of that government which receives such act; but it is very difficult to say what is the first act of violence. If a nation sees itself menaced with an attack, its first act of violence to prevent such attack, will be considered as defensive.

        Furthermore in their eye (sic) if it was just a student playing those dangerous red snare drums it would start an illegal war!

        6. To legalize a war it must be declared by that branch of the government entrusted by the constitution with this power. etc etc

        Of course Israel has defenses coloured for every occasion link to israeldefense.com

  7. oldgeezer
    June 19, 2014, 11:59 pm

    The most moral army in the world staring the danger of flapping flags in the face. It stirs the heart.

    • ritzl
      June 20, 2014, 12:40 pm

      Songs will be written of mighty deeds and sung by schoolchildren!

  8. Shingo
    June 20, 2014, 12:22 am

    Yes, these are clearly weapons that pose an existential threat to Israel. Wait for Bibbi to cite these seizures and evidence Hamas is a threat to peace.

    • Slappy
      June 20, 2014, 7:57 am

      Why would Netanyahu need to do that? He could simply report that Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization (“FTO”) (by the US Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended). Then he could remind Allison that “It is unlawful for a person in the United States or subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to knowingly provide “material support or resources” to a designated FTO.” And if he’s feeling generous he might also remind Allison to not try having a Hamas member accompany her to the US, as such member is inadmissible as stated at Title 8, United States Code, Section 1132(a)(3)(B)(i)(IV-V).

      Oh, and Allison, the one missing teen, Naftali Frankel, is a citizen of the United States. I’ll assume the worst re your omitting that reality.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        June 20, 2014, 9:18 am

        ”Oh, and Allison, the one missing teen, Naftali Frankel, is a citizen of the United States. I’ll assume the worst re your omitting that reality.”

        Why is this American citizen studying at a yeshiva built on stolen land, in defiance of the 4th Geneva Convention? Should he or his parents be arrested for this in the US, do you think?

        And what does it matter if he’s a US citizen or not? I know you think Israelis are more precious than Palestinains, that’s a given. Are you now saying that Americans are, in turn, more precious than Israelis?

      • Giles
        June 20, 2014, 9:23 am

        And how is it that:

        1. Hamas got designated as a terrorist organization?

        2. The material support for terrorism act came into being?

        Hint: AIPAC is the head of this multi pronged “Lobby” (Crime family is more accurate).

      • mariapalestina
        June 20, 2014, 2:21 pm

        One of ten unarmed passengers on board MAVI MAMARA murdered by Israeli commando pirates four years ago in international waters of the Mediterranean was an American citizen. Didn’t see the U.S. State Department get too upset about that, did we?

  9. Daniel Rich
    June 20, 2014, 12:48 am

    Could this be one of the reasons: Kfar Etzion Settlement (Palestinian Territories)?

  10. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    June 20, 2014, 4:27 am

    They’re not even really ‘Hamas flags’ either – just Islamic flags. Very similar to the national flag of KSA. Not that the IDF grunts would know the difference. After all, thisis a gang which ‘captured’ a Baalbek grocer because he was called Hassan Nasrallah.

  11. just
    June 20, 2014, 8:10 am

    “JENIN (Ma’an) — At least one was injured as Israeli forces carried out raids on homes across the northern West Bank region of Jenin and stormed the headquarters of the Arab American University at dawn on Friday.

    Security sources in Jenin told Ma’an that Israeli forces stormed the headquarters of the university and raided the building of the Dean of Student Affairs and the Student Union, detaining a number of workers and guards who were there for a short period of time.

    The sources added that Israeli forces confiscated papers and files from the buildings and in particular from the Student Union, before leaving the university after several hours.”

    link to maannews.net

    and

    “RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — A 22-year-old youth on Friday succumbed to wounds sustained during an Israeli military raid on Qalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah, making him the second Palestinian to be killed by Israeli forces since the morning.

    Mustafa Hosni Aslan was shot in the head by Israeli forces when they raided the camp before dawn on Friday, one of three Palestinians wounded in the camp.”
    link to maannews.net

    and

    “HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy after clashes erupted early Friday morning during a raid on the southern West Bank village of Dura, near Hebron.

    Local sources told Ma’an that Mahmoud Jihad Muhammad Dudeen was struck by live bullets in the chest before being taken to Hebron Governmental Hospital, where he was shortly pronounced dead.”

    link to maannews.net

    • Maximus Decimus Meridius
      June 20, 2014, 9:15 am

      I notice that the mainstream press – which fretted obsessively over the alleged abduction – has once again gone characteristically quiet. When 3 precious Israeli students go missing, the world’s press sits up and takes notice. When Palestinian towns are raided, hundreds kidnapped and boys younger than the missing students are shot dead, nobody gives a toss. Back to the World Cup.

  12. Chu
    June 20, 2014, 10:57 am

    This seems almost embarrassing and cult-like when you think about any nation spending these military resources on finding three young men.

  13. Orryia
    June 20, 2014, 11:11 am

    “…raised concern from within the Israeli government that the army is bent on purging any sign of Hamas in the West Banks rather than carrying out a rescue mission. “The central effort here must be to find the kidnapped teens and bring them home, and not a focus on toppling the Palestinian reconciliation government,” Meretz’s Zahava Gal-On said to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a briefing this afternoon.”

    Not that the readers here would care, but last time I checked, Zehava Gal-On and Meretz are not part of the government. They’re a marginal party in the Knesset.

    Stop trying to credit the Israeli government with things they didn’t do in order to paint them in a more moderate light. I would’ve expected that this site, of all places, would refrain from whitewashing them.

    • LeaNder
      June 20, 2014, 12:27 pm

      Stop trying to credit the Israeli government with things they didn’t do in order to paint them in a more moderate light.

      I guess you are addressing Allison and only as an afterthought the site:

      I would’ve expected that this site, of all places, would refrain from whitewashing them.

      Wrong?

      Explain how Allison is whitewashing the Israeli administration in this article? Maybe I can learn from someone else’s sensibilities?

      Interesting comment.

      • Orryia
        June 21, 2014, 3:18 pm

        The article whitewashes the Israeli government by implying that there have been dissenters within the government in relation to the operation. That simply isn’t true, since Meretz isn’t part of the government. It’s a small party, viewed in Israel as belonging to the radical left. Very few people agree with them, certainly not in the government.

        I don’t really understand what was unclear.

  14. Elisabeth
    June 20, 2014, 11:24 am

    They are in overdrive. This type of language does not go over well at all, esp. the accusing tone and the pathos. I think they are completely out of touch now with world opinion. Sickening:

    In a statement Tuesday, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor condemned Hamas and expressed outrage at the international community for not understanding the danger of Hamas’ new role in the Palestinian unity government.

    “I ask the international community — where are you? Where are you?” he said. “The kidnapping took place just 10 days after Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government. All those in the international community who rushed to bless this marriage, should look into the eyes of the heartbroken parents and have the courage to take responsibility by condemning the kidnapping.”

    • ritzl
      June 20, 2014, 1:01 pm

      Well doggone it. I got a flat tire just TWO days after Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government. By Israeli logic, Hamas caused that too (and I’m a terrorist sympathizer if I believe otherwise).

      Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Quintessential political BSing technique. It happens so much you have to wonder why the Israeli pros at political BS would think it would be thought to be even marginally credible. I think their devoutly uncritical world is crumbling so quickly that their technique is transforming into more of a two year-old tantrum and away from the relatively sophisticated knowing glance of a long-nurtured relationship.

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