Israeli troops have been accused of manhandling a group of European diplomats as they tried to hand out tents to Palestinian Bedouins whose West Bank homes were destroyed by the army.
The troops used force to disperse the diplomats who had accompanied aid workers to the village of Makhul in the Jordan Valley, an AFP photographer said on Friday.
Marion Fesneau-Castaing, a French diplomat, was dragged out of an aid vehicle, the photographer said.
“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” she said.
“This is how international law is being respected here.”
Locals said Makhul was home to about 120 people.
The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten, after Israel’s High Court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.
Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.
The Israeli army said following Friday’s altercation that security forces had tried to prevent tents from being erected in area, in accordance with the High Court decision.
“At the site, Palestinians and the foreign activists violently objected, throwing stones and striking law enforcement officers,” a military spokeswoman said.
“Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities.
“Fesneau-Castaing jabbed a soldier in the face after picking herself up off the ground. Reuters reporters at the scene said they saw no stone-throwing or foreign activists.
In an incident last Tuesday, Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from delivering aid to Makhul.
The following day ICRC staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.
Scuffles with troops
Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the EU’s political office turned up on Friday with more supplies.
As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their lorry.
In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained.
An elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.
Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.