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Israeli Troops Detain Palestinians

Associated Press Writer

March 11, 2002, 4:20 PM EST

DHEISHEH REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank -- Hands held to his head, 17-year-old Mohammed Abu Sdoud waited to be handcuffed and blindfolded by Israeli soldiers.
"I'm so scared," Abu Sdoud said as he moved forward in the line of teen-agers and men rounded up in an Israeli army sweep in the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, just south of Jerusalem.

About 1,100 Palestinians were detained Monday in Dheisheh and the West Bank town of Qalqilya, part of an Israeli army effort to track down militants suspected of involvement in violence.

The army has been using the new detention tactic for the past several days. Over the weekend, about 1,000 Palestinians were detained in the Tulkarem refugee camp; all but 40 were later released.

Troops moved deeper into Dheisheh early Monday, taking up positions in the camp. Soon soldiers announced over loudspeakers, in Arabic, that all males between the ages of 15 and 45 must come to the schoolyard.

Soldiers ordered the hundreds of men to empty their pockets and put coins and keys and their belts into plastic bags. Then they were told to take off their jackets and shirts, stripping down to their undershirts, before they put their hands on their heads, waiting in a line to be handcuffed, blindfolded and photographed.

Two men collapsed from waiting in the hot sun and were given water by army medics. About 500 were detained in Dheisheh and 600 in Qalqilya, the army said. Those detained insisted they were not involved in violence.

"I have never been involved in any attacks against Israel," said 29-year-old Mohammed Abu Ali as he waited in line. "I only want to bring home bread for my two children."

Last week in Tulkarem, some detainees said soldiers used markers to write three-digit numbers on their arms and foreheads. One photograph showed a detainee who had just been released with a large number written across his forearm.

An army spokesman, Lt. Olivier Rafowicz, said soldiers scribbled the numbers to identify detainees and keep track of them. Rafowicz said the marking could easily be washed off.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat equated the action with the treatment of Jews in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, when numbers were tattooed on the arms of prisoners as a means of identification.

"Did you see them put (numbers) on people they've arrested in the Tulkarem refugee camp?" Arafat said Monday on Abu Dhabi Television. "Isn't this the sort of thing they used to say the Nazis did against the Jews? So what do they say about these things? Isn't this a new Nazi racism?"

Rafowicz rejected Arafat's accusation, saying it was aimed at stirring up passions and encouraging his followers to carry out more attacks. "We should let history and the international community judge the severity of these comments and who said them," Rafowicz said.

The Al Aqsa Brigades, which is affiliated with Arafat's Fatah movement and has carried out many recent attacks, said it would strike at Israel because of the detentions.

"While the men of Dheisheh raised their hands over their heads for the soldiers, the Israelis will soon raise their coffins over their heads," the group said in a leaflet distributed in the Dheisheh area.

At the camp, Israeli soldiers searched the home of wanted militant Ahmed Mughrabi but did not find him. Residents said the gunmen had fled long ago.

Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press



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