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Israel arrests dozens of Palestinian students in West Bank village

Birzeit University students were seized after visiting a family made homeless when Israeli forces demolished their house
Palestinian students were on a visit 'in solidarity' with Montasser Shalabi's family, whose home was destroyed by Israel in Turmusayya, in the occupied West Bank, 8 July 2021 (AFP)

On Wednesday evening Israeli forces arrested tens of Birzeit University students in Turmusayya, a village in the centre of the occupied West Bank.

The soldiers erected a checkpoint at the village's entrance, stopping two buses and arresting around 45 Palestinian students onboard.

According to local media, the students were handcuffed and blindfolded, then forced to sit on the road before being taken to an unknown destination in a military vehicle.

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Twelve women were released later, local media said.

Birzeit University condemned Israel's arrests of its students, who were visiting the family of Palestinian prisoner Muntasir Shalabi "in solidarity". Shalabi's home was destroyed by Israel last week.

The university said that the students' arrest is a "violation of all international laws and norms that guarantee students' right to movement, and a violation of all international standards that preserve their dignity and freedom".

A Palestinian-American, Muntasir Shalabi was arrested in May after being accused of shooting an Israeli dead at a Nablus-area checkpoint. 

On 8 July, Israeli forces demolished the home of Shalabi's estranged wife, leaving her and her three children homeless. Israel routinely demolishes the homes of the families of Palestinians who have staged attacks on Israelis, a procedure condemned by many as collective punishment. The US embassy in Jerusalem formally denounced Israel's demolition of Shalabi's wife's home, in a rare rebuke.

A Palestinian woman reacts outside a building that belonged to Montasser Shalabi that was demolished by Israeli forces (AFP)
A Palestinian woman reacts outside a building that belonged to Muntasir Shalabi that was demolished by Israeli forces (AFP)

According to Haaretz, the Israeli army described the students as a "Hamas student cell" who were "involved in transferring money, incitement and organising Hamas activities in the West Bank."

The Islamic Bloc, Hamas's student branch, said in a statement that, "Birzeit University, its students and its student movement remain at the forefront of [Palestinian] national and union action."

It has called on legal and media groups to condemn "this barbaric aggression against the students, and making every effort to pressure the occupation to release them".

The Palestinian's Prisoners Club advocacy group said it was following up the arrests, and expects some of them to appear in Israeli court on Thursday.

Arrests campaign in West Bank

Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested tens of other Palestinians overnight in raids on towns and villages across the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

A 20-year-old Palestinian was arrested in the East Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis, while an Israeli undercover unit seized and beat three Palestinians from the city's Silwan neighbourhood, Wafa reported.

Elsewhere, two young men from the same family were arrested in Deir Qadis village, outside Ramallah. In Yatta, a town near Hebron city, Israeli forces raided and searched several houses and detained a man who was returning from Jordan.

Israeli forces also installed military checkpoints on the edge of Hebron city on Wednesday evening, checking Palestinians' documents and searching vehicles.

In Bethlehem, a 29-year-old Palestinian man was arrested from the Wad Shaheen neighbourhood in the city centre, after Israeli forces stormed and searched his house.

Israeli night raids and arrests in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are carried out almost nightly, and as of July, 4,850 Palestinian prisoners are held in Israeli jails, according to the Addameer rights group.