Israeli troops beat, arrest PA policemen in Hebron

By The Associated Press


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Israel Defense Forces troops beat five unarmed Palestinian traffic police in the West Bank city of Hebron on Tuesday, a witness and officials said, throwing them to the ground and hitting one with a rifle butt.

After the beating, which lasted several minutes, the soldiers shackled the policemen and hauled them away in an army jeep. The incident prompted dozens of Palestinians to throw rocks and bottles at the soldiers.

An Associated Press photographer who witnessed the incident said about 12 IDF soldiers approached the policemen and ordered them to leave the area.

When the policemen refused, the soldiers began to remove them by force, at times beating them, dragging one policemen on the ground while kicking him, and hitting another on the head with the butt of an M-16 rifle.

One Palestinian policemen was seen with a swollen red eye, and another with blood dripping from his mouth.

An IDF official present at the scene said on condition of anonymity that the Palestinian policemen were not allowed to be in the area where the beating took place, and that despite repeated demands for them to leave, they refused.

Asked why the soldiers assaulted the policemen, the military official said, "if they don't want to come with us nicely, then we will take them not so nicely."

Dozens of Palestinian bystanders threw rocks and bottles at the soldiers, who responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd. At least three protesters were treated for tear gas inhalation by Palestinian medics.

Hebron's police chief, Awni Samara, said the policemen were in the Palestinian-controlled area of city and were not violating any agreements with Israel.

"We are here to serve our people, and what the Israeli army did today is an indication that they do not want peace or stability in the area," said Samara.

In 1997, under the interim Oslo peace accords, Hebron was split into two parts. One section remained under IDF control, while the other part, where the incident took place, was handed over to Palestinian control.

About 500 Jewish settlers, many of them extremists, live in the Israeli-controlled part. Clashes between settlers and Palestinians are frequent.

Since the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli violence erupted more four years ago, IDF troops have moved in and out of the Palestinian controlled areas at will.