Nearly a dozen human rights organizations appealed to Israeli officials to not administer collective punishment on Palestinians in the West Bank during an ongoing IDF operation to rescue three abducted Israeli teens.
In a letter delivered on Sunday morning to the Defense and Public Security ministries, rights groups condemned the kidnapping of the teens but asserted that the sweeping military arrests and travel restrictions imposed by the IDF are unfair to the general Palestinian population, and do not clearly help freeing the hostages.
“The need to return the abducted Israelis safe and sound to their homes and families is clear,” the letter said. “Yet, there is concern that many of the actions undertaken harm the Palestinian population and do not serve this purpose.”
Following the abductions of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gil-ad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, on June 12, the IDF launched Operation Brother’s Keeper to locate and release the teens. Over a thousand troops have conducted house to house searches and scoured the region around the town of Hebron, where the teens were thought to have been taken after being grabbed from a hitchhiking post.
Over 300 terror suspects have been arrested as part of the operation, most of them Hamas operatives, some of whom were released from prison as part of a swap for Gilad Shalit in 2011.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blamed Hamas for the abductions, though the group has denied involvement.
“The large number of raids and arrests over the last week raises concerns that some of these operations are not the result of pressing operational needs,” the rights groups contended. “The imposition of restrictive and punitive conditions on Palestinian prisoners solely because of their organizational affiliation is a blatant violation of the prohibition against collective punishment.”
“Actions designed to intimidate and pressure the local population are illegal and untenable,” the groups wrote.
Signatories on the petition included Amnesty International, B’Tselem, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual, Yesh Din, Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Rabbis for Human Rights and Breaking the Silence.