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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 13:59 GMT
Rounding up Palestinian militants
IDF operation in Bethlehem
IDF soldier leads away two suspected Palestinians
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By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala
line

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) says the incursions, or brief invasions, into Palestinian areas are launched to detain militants the army believes are about to carry out or planning attacks.

In recent operations into refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, the IDF has simply rounded up all men between 14 and 45 years old.

In some cases thousands of men are blindfolded, bound at the wrists and numbered with a band on their arms.

After interrogation and the checking of names against a list of wanted militants, the majority are released.


We arrest all those essential to the infrastructure of terrorist attacks

Israeli Defense Force spokesman
The process of holding and interrogating en mass has been criticised by Palestinians and in Israel for causing deeper anger and resentment.

Those that are not released are taken away and detained inside Israel.

It was estimated in January by Palestinian human rights groups that between 500 and 600 Palestinians have been taken into custody by the IDF during the 17 months of the current intifada.

Of course, the IDF continues to pursue the highly controversial assassination policy against militants.

Israel has issued a list of its most wanted militants - those it considers leaders and instigators of attacks.

Stopping attacks

The IDF criteria for a Palestinian who might be arrested during incursions into Palestinian territory are broad.


In the investigation period of a person's detention, there are many reports of torture during questioning

Said Zeedani, head of the Palestinian Commission for Citizen's Rights
"We arrest all those essential to the infrastructure of terrorist attacks," IDF spokesman Jacob Talal told BBC News Online.

Those arrested are detained within Israel and questioned there.

Some are released if it is clear that they are not involved in operations against Israel.

In cases where Shin Bet, Israel's general security agency, carries out an investigation and can press a prosecution, the military prosecutor in the occupied territories or East Jerusalem will take the case against the arrested Palestinian to court.

Palestinians arrested during an IDF operation in Bethlehem
Palestinians waiting in line for interrogation hold out their ID papers
It was estimated in January that there were somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 Palestinians detained in Israeli jails.

Most of these are either convicted or in the middle of some kind of judicial process.

Another 34 Palestinians are held under a system of "administrative detention" instituted by the British authorities who ruled Mandate Palestine before 1948.

Abuses in detention

Under administrative detention, a detainee can be held for an unlimited number of repeatedly renewed six month periods that, human rights groups say, are easily extended by military order.


The judicial process, carried out by the military courts, is very poor - mainly because the defendant and his lawyers cannot see the evidence that will be presented against them before the trail

Yael Stein, B'Tselem research director
According to Dr Said Zeedani, the head of the Palestinian Independent Centre for Citizens' Rights, the system of military detentions is open to widespread abuses.

"In the investigation period of a person's detention, there are many reports of torture during questioning.

"So far, [since the beginning of the intifada] no Palestinians who have been arrested by the Israelis have been tried. Their detention is just being extended," Dr Zeedani told BBC News Online.

Human rights concerns

Israeli human right group, B'Tselem says that administrative detention and the trials of Palestinians by Israeli military courts are in breech of internationally accepted human rights standards.

"The judicial process, carried out by the military courts, is very poor - mainly because the defendant and his lawyers cannot see the evidence that will be presented against them before the trail," B'Tselem research director Yael Stein said.

Ms Stein adds that the detention of Palestinians in Israel is itself a breach of humanitarian law.

In cases of military occupation, prisoners are not allowed to be moved from the territory they live in because this usually restricts access to them by their families and their lawyers.

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


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