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Israel arrests two foreign activists in West Bank

By Joseph Krauss
Yahoo!News
7.2.10
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100207/wl_mideast_afp/mideastconflictwbankdemoarrest




JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel`s military arrested two foreign activists in a pre-dawn raid in the occupied West Bank on Sunday that a pro-Palestinian group said was aimed at intimidating protesters.

The arrests follow a similar raid last month in which a Czech activist was detained and deported, and come amid heightened efforts to curtail Palestinian protests in the West Bank that are supported by foreigners and Israelis.

The Israeli military said the two were arrested for `staying in Israel illegally` and transferred to the custody of the interior ministry.

`One of them was holding fake documents and the other`s visa had expired,` a military spokesman said, without providing further details.

`Both of them were known to be involved in illegal violence,` he added, referring to their participation in West Bank demonstrations.

Neta Golan, an Israeli co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), admitted the two had overstayed their tourist visas but insisted their arrest was aimed at curbing protests against Israeli policies.

`They are being targeted because they are activists, but because they haven`t broken any law the excuse for getting rid of them is that they have overstayed their visas,` Golan told AFP.

The raid took place in the so-called Area A, a part of the West Bank under the complete control of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority but where Israel reserves the right to operate for security reasons.

Soldiers raided the apartment in the town of Ramallah at around 3:00 am (0100 GMT) and arrested the two activists, Ariadna Jove Marti of Spain and Bridgette Chappell of Australia, according to the ISM.

The soldiers also confiscated cameras, a computer, pro-Palestinian banners and ISM registration forms, according to Ryan Olander, a US activist who was at the home at the time of the raid.

Israeli security forces carried out a similar raid in Ramallah on January 11 in which they arrested Eva Novakova, a Czech activist who had overstayed her visa, before deporting her.

Last week, Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner defended such raids, saying they targeted individuals responsible for inciting violence.

`Anywhere in the world, if you are a foreign visitor on a tourist visa and you do not renew your visa and you participate in violent demonstrations, that would be the last time you visit there,` he told AFP.

The weekly protests held in a handful of West Bank villages are billed as non-violent but frequently result in clashes between stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli troops armed with tear-gas and rubber bullets.

Israel has in recent months arrested scores of Palestinian activists involved in the demonstrations against its controversial separation barrier, but arrests of foreigners are extremely rare.

It says the barrier helps prevent attacks against its citizens, but Palestinians say the fences, walls and closed roads snaking across the West Bank are aimed at snatching land that should be part of their promised state.



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