Israeli soldiers harassed European diplomats yesterday and seized a truck filled with emergency aid and tents. The diplomats were attempting to bring the supplies to Palestinians whose homes had been demolished earlier in the week.
A Reuters reporter claims that he saw Israeli soldiers throw sound grenades at the diplomats, aid workers, and local residents at Khirbet Al-Makhul. He said they also yanked a French diplomat out of a truck before driving off with its contents. French diplomat Marion Castaing said: "They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity. This is how international law is being respected here". According to local residents, about 120 people lived in Khirbet Al-Makhul. The army demolished the houses, stables, and kindergarten last Monday after the Israeli high court ruled that the residents did not have proper building permits. The inhabitants refused to move after the destruction of their property maintaining that they have lived in the location for generations along with their sheep.
Israeli soldiers prevented the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from delivering emergency aid last Tuesday. On Wednesday the ICRC staff put up some tents but the army forced them to be taken down.
On Friday, diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, and the EU political office arrived with more supplies. Immediately a dozen Israeli jeeps surrounded them and told them not to unload their truck. One EU diplomat said: "It's shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments.(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,"
There were some scuffles between locals and soldiers and one elderly Palestinian had to be treated after fainting. This is the third Bedouin community demolished by Israelis in the West Bank and the adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August. Palestinians accuse Israeli authorities of taking over historical grazing lands for military use or to Israeli settlers.
An article at antiwar.com reports that the Israeli military has confirmed the incident. They claim to have foiled an attempt by the diplomats to rebuild the demolished homes. Officials with Israel's Foreign Ministry also say that they are considering filing a formal complaint with the French government because a French woman who was removed from a truck behaved inappropriately in complaining about it. However, other government officials said that they planned to investigate reports of the diplomat being mistreated.
UPDATE: European Union officials have reacted to the incident: "Senior European Union officials told Israel to explain why its soldiers seized a truckload of humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians, saying they deplored the confiscation. "
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