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European and UN diplomats clash with Israel over aid to the West Bank

  Saturday 21st September 2013

A number of European and UN diplomats have expressed anger after Israeli soldiers prevented them from delivering aid to Palestinians in the West Bank.

French Diplomat Marion Fesnau-Castaing (pictured) was dragged by Israeli security forces when she and other diplomats attempted to provide aid to Palestinians. Photo: Reuters

The diplomats were delivering tents and emergency aid to villagers from Khirbet al-Makhul whose homes were demolished earlier this week after the Israeli High Court ruled they had been built without correct permits.

The diplomats have described how they were confronted by a number of Israeli army jeeps as they arrived in the area and were then told by Israeli soldiers to unload their truck.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, Marion Fesneau-Castaing said: “They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity.”

The French diplomat continued: “This is how international law is being respected here.”

Another European diplomat described the incident as “shocking and outrageous” and said the actions will be reported to the diplomats’ respective governments.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have justified the actions of the security services, stating they were enforcing the High Court order by preventing tents being erected on the site, something they described as “provocation”.

The IDF said stones were thrown at the security personnel and stun grenades were fired to disperse the crowd.

A spokeswoman for the Israeli army added: “Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities.”

Reporters from Reuters who were at the scene have said, however, that no stones were thrown.

The British Consulate General in Jerusalem has expressed concern over Israeli military forces preventing humanitarian assistance reaching this community.

A spokesman for the Consulate added: “We have repeatedly made clear to the Israeli authorities our concerns over such demolitions, which we view as causing unnecessary suffering to ordinary Palestinians; as harmful to the peace process; and as contrary to international humanitarian law.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Khirbet al-Makhul was the third settlement to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel has been accused by Palestinians of trying to seize their historical grazing lands by either earmarking them for military use or creating Israeli settlements.

Direct peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians took place last month after a three-year hiatus caused by disagreements over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Simon Wyatt

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