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Israel criticized for removing diplomats

Sept. 22, 2013 at 8:12 AM

JERUSALEM, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Palestinian and U.N. officials criticized Israel after soldiers prevented Palestinians and foreign diplomats from erecting tents in the northern Jordan Valley.

Soldiers Friday prevented a group of Palestinians and European diplomats from raising makeshift tents at the village Khirbet al-Makhul in the northern Jordan Valley, where days earlier Israel had destroyed homes in accordance with an Israeli High Court ruling.

The court had ruled the homes were constructed illegally and without building permits, The Times of Israel said.

The violence occurred when soldiers tried to pull French diplomat Marion Castaing and other Palestinians out of a truck to confiscate tents meant for the Palestinian families.

Israeli TV broadcast video showing the French female diplomat on the ground near the truck and punching an Israeli soldier in the face when she got up.

The Israeli army described the incident as a "disturbance of the peace." The army said stones were thrown at soldiers who were forced to use riot dispersal methods and later arrested three Palestinians and declared the area a closed military zone.

The army issued a statement saying: "Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities."

"On behalf of the Palestinian leadership, I condemn in the strongest terms the brutal attack on your [E.U.] representative's person and dignity by the Israeli occupation forces. This measure is yet another example of the Israeli policies that aim at preventing any attempt to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people, let alone ending the occupation," the Ma'an news agency quoted Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian Liberation Organization official, saying.

"I called upon the Israeli authorities to live up to their obligations as occupying power to protect those communities under their responsibilities, including to halt the demolition of Palestinian homes and property," the Palestine News Network quoted U.N. Human Rights Coordinator James W. Rawley saying.

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