Mass arrests in West Bank as Israel siege on Nablus continues
Israeli troops arrested more than 40 Palestinians in sweeping military raids across the the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip overnight on Thursday.
The arrests focused on the town of Beit Ummar in the Hebron governorate, where 19 people were detained, including minors, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. Others were held in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin and occupied East Jerusalem.
Five fishermen were detained at dawn by the Israeli navy in al-Sudaniya, northern Gaza.
According to the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society, a high proportion of Thursday's arrests were children and young boys.
The monitoring group said the escalation was a form of “collective punishment”, and included the re-arrest of several former prisoners.
The campaign comes as Israeli forces continue their siege on Palestinians in Nablus for a third week, with roadblocks and checkpoints preventing vehicles from moving in and out of the governorate.
The Israeli army says the measures were enforced to stop attacks against Israeli targets carried out by a newly-formed armed group in the city called the Lions' Den.
However, the Israeli army has been criticised for the closures, which have disrupted the lives of more than 200,000 Palestinians living in the area.
"Restricting the movement of more than 200,000 Palestinians has paralysed life in the area, forcing hundreds of businesses to stop operating and harming the livelihoods of all their dependents," Israeli human rights group B'tselem said on Wednesday.
"Imposing the restrictions in full knowledge of the harm they would cause reflects Israeli decision-makers’ view that Palestinian subjects are lesser human beings. This is what apartheid looks like."
Rising death toll
In recent months, Palestinians in the West Bank have faced increasing violence by Israeli forces not seen in years.
Near-daily raid-and-arrest operations have increased across the occupied Palestinian territories, which the Israeli army says are aimed at stamping out a resurgence of Palestinian armed resistance, particularly in the northern cities of Nablus and Jenin.
Earlier this week, Israeli army forces stormed Nablus with dozens of armoured vehicles and anti-tank guided missiles, in a three hour raid which killed five Palestinians, at least two of whom were unarmed.
It took the Palestinian death toll at the hands of Israeli forces and settlers this year to over 175 people, of whom more than 44 were killed in the last two months alone.
On Thursday, Defence for Children International published a report stating that 29 children have been killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in 2022.
"All of the children were killed after being shot with live ammunition in their upper extremities," the rights group said. "This is evidence of intentional killing."