Hebron mayor: Palestinians detained for collaborating with Israel to 'escalate violence'

12:00 Sep 20 2016 Hebron

HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Palestinian security forces have recently detained an unspecified number Palestinians suspected of being hired by Israel to “escalate violence,” according to the mayor of the southern occupied West Bank city of Hebron, amid a spike in unrest that has seen seven Palestinians and one Jordanian killed by Israeli forces since Thursday.

“Our reports indicate that Israeli forces provoke Palestinian children and incite them to carry knifes. Israeli soldiers keep asking Palestinian children at checkpoints, ‘Where are your knifes? Why aren’t you carrying knifes?’,” Kamel Hameid said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Hameid told reporters that Israeli security forces, with the support of the Israeli government, have been carrying out an “ethnic cleansing” campaign against unarmed Palestinian citizens, adding that “Israel’s escalation of violence and executions is exacerbating the situation in Hebron to the brink of disaster.”

Seven Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the Hebron district since Thursday, after a period of relative calm since a wave of unrest spread across the occupied territory nearly a year ago, which has seen 230 Palestinians killed by Israelis and 32 Israelis killed by Palestinians.

The Hebron area in particular grew as the epicenter of upheaval, with Israeli authorities severely restricting the movement of Palestinians in parts of Hebron's Old City as a "closed military zone" for several months, while July’s closures in Hebron saw the most widespread restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank in two years.

While Israel alleges many of those were attempting to attack Israelis when they were shot, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel's version of events in a number of cases.

Israel has also come under repeated criticism for failing to carry out due process in response to alleged and actual attacks, particularly in regard to the apparent extrajudicial executions of Palestinians who did not pose a threat when they were killed.

One man was fatally shot Thursday as Israeli forces struggled to detain him during a raid, while the other six were shot dead while allegedly committing or attempting to commit stabbing attacks on Israeli military targets in the days since.

In the wake of this week's violence, the Israeli army deployed an additional battalion to the Hebron district, while an Israeli army officer vowed strict punitive measures would be imposed on Palestinian civilians in the area.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces have detained a number of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank for allegedly being in possession of knives in recent months amid the violence, many of them minors.

Hameid said that Israel has escalated tension and a policy of collective punishment on innocent civilians to serve its "occupational purposes," by adding more forces in Hebron’s Old City, while also banning Palestinian worshipers from entering the Ibrahimi mosque -- located at the epicenter of tensions between local Palestinians and Israeli forces and settlers -- among other punitive measures.

The Hebron mayor added that Israel has also began to impose an “economic siege” on Hebron, whereby a number of factory owners “have been prohibited from importing basic materials to their factories and were also banned from exporting their products to Jerusalem.”

Hameid also said that Israel targets Hebron’s educational system through its numerous military checkpoints in the area which obstruct students from reaching their schools, while Israeli forces have also regularly fired tear gas canisters at classrooms.

The mayor called upon Palestinian Authority to put Israel under pressure to force it stopping its “monstrous” violations against Palestinians.

The allegations of collaboration with Israel comes after reports emerged in September last year that 20 Palestinians filed a lawsuit against the PA in an Israeli court, seeking up to $100 million in damages after they were detained for alleged collaboration with Israeli intelligence.

Under Palestinian law, collaboration with Israel may be punishable by death.

Information passed to Israel's security services by Palestinian collaborators has in the past been used to make arrests and assassinate high-profile political and militant figures.

Israeli rights group B'Tselem says that Israeli intelligence often offers Palestinians permits necessary to earn a livelihood, medical treatment, or money in exchange for information.

There have also been reported cases of Israeli intelligence using personal information to blackmail Palestinians into collaboration.

B'Tselem has also documented cases where the PA has executed Palestinians convicted of collaboration in "patently unfair" judicial processes.
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