Israeli forces call Awarta residents into open 14Mar11 March 15, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  14 March 2011

Soldiers toured Awarta village on Monday morning, calling through loud speakers for all residents aged 15-40 to gather in the yard of the community’s school.

A village council official and a local man working for the Palestinian security departments were said to have been detained overnight.

The call to appear at the school was the first time many were permitted to leave their homes in three days, and village council leader Qays Awwad said interrogations were expected.

An Israeli-imposed curfew remains in place on the village for the third day in a row, keeping Awarta residents locked indoors as a wide-scale military campaign continues. Israeli media said the military had declared the village a closed military zone.

Awwad village council Salim Qawariq had been taken from his home while Israeli forces inspected it, while informed Palestinian sources confirmed the detention of Lieutenant Iyad Muhammad Awwad, a Palestinian general intelligence officer.

Two activists with the International Solidarity Movement were able to enter Awarta before the curfew was imposed, and confirmed the continued closure of the town.

Speaking with Ma’an one Swedish national with ISM said searches conducted by Israeli forces appeared random, with home being entered more than once over the course of three days.

In one home the activist said he visited shortly after a military search, framed pictures were smashed, furniture overturned, fuse cables cut, cash and SIM phone cards confiscated, a computer thrown off its desk, and oil poured into barrels of drinking water in the kitchen.

“From where we are we have seen at least 19 people taken from homes and transported to an unknown location,” he said.

Locals told the ISM activists that Israeli forces searched the town hall, taking some 1,800 shekels ($500) from a drawer, and an unknown amount from the council’s safe.

Medicines and basic food stuffs in the village were said to be running short, with families forced to live off any reserves in their homes, council member Awwad said.

Israeli forces said Monday that they were searching the village for suspects in the murder of five members of a settler family from the adjacent settlement of Itamar. A mother, father and three of their children were stabbed to death on Friday night, by an unknown assailant.

Israeli officials have said that they believe a Palestinian was behind what has been described as a “terror attack.”

Condemnations of the killings were issued in Ramallah, with prime minister-designate Salam Fayyad saying “An infant, two children and their parents were the victims, and as we have always rejected violence against our people, we reject it against others and we condemn it.”

Home-to-home invasions were reported from Saturday afternoon when the curfew was imposed, and Awwad said residents were being terrified by the brutal search methods.

Israeli police were put on high alert and the army said troops had been ordered “to be vigilant” for any attempted revenge attacks, reports said on Sunday.

The murder of five out of eight members of the settler family sparked anger from Israel and its settler communities. A wave of attacks against Palestinian civilians has been documented across the West Bank, including the torching of an agricultural field north of Ramallah, vandalism in the southern West Bank near Hebron, and several incidents of rock and Molotov cocktail throwing on settler roads connecting West Bank population centers.

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