Breaking the Silence leaders arrested at West Bank outpost
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Breaking the Silence leaders arrested at West Bank outpost

Activists were visiting Mitzpeh Yair, where 5 members of a Jewish-Arab group were reportedly assaulted by settlers last week; police release them after several hours

Breaking the Silence director Avner Gvaryahu is detained by Border Police near the southern West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Yair on August 31, 2018. (Screen capture/YouTube)
Breaking the Silence director Avner Gvaryahu is detained by Border Police near the southern West Bank outpost of Mitzpeh Yair on August 31, 2018. (Screen capture/YouTube)

A pair of Breaking the Silence officials along with a human rights attorney were detained by Border Police Friday when they arrived at the Mitzpeh Yair outpost in the southern West Bank for a tour of the area.

Breaking the Silence CEO Avner Gvaryahu and communications director Achiya Schatz were detained together with attorney Michael Sfard and brought to a nearby police station before being released several hours later with no charges brought against them.

A Border Police spokesperson said the three activists were detained for violating the military order.

They were part of a group visiting Mitzpeh Yair on Friday after five left-wing activists were allegedly assaulted by a group of some 15 Jewish settlers near the illegal outpost last Saturday.

According to a Facebook post by Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Arab rights organization to which the activists belong, five of its members were hospitalized after being attacked with sticks and stones. Police said they were investigating the incident.

Meretz Member of Knesset Mossi Raz, who took part in the Friday tour together with some 120 activists, accused the army of “taking orders from the settlers, land criminals who squatted at the site illegally… The IDF can’t act according to the wishes of the settlers,” he told the Maariv daily.

“At this moment, our members are under arrest,” the Peace Now settlement watchdog told journalists, “because they led a tour near the Mitzpeh Yair outpost, from which thugs violently attacked peace activists last Saturday.”

Breaking the Silence publishes testimony of former Israeli soldiers who report on alleged abuses by the IDF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The organization has riled many Israelis, and drawn ire from officials, who have challenged the authenticity of its mostly anonymous claims and lamented its advocacy work in the international community.

An injured left-wing activist being escorted by another activist and an IDF soldier after allegedly being attacked by settlers, near the West Bank settlement of Mitzpeh Yair, August 25, 2108. (B’Tselem)

Last Saturday, police said they received a call from IDF forces in the area reporting that members of the NGO had arrived in Mitzpeh Yair to film and were attacked by a group of masked youths from the settlement.

The activists were allegedly documenting illegal construction in a nearby outpost. Members of the organization have often accompanied Palestinian farmers in the area who claim that access to their lands is often blocked by settlers.

Last week, the Israeli military removed from active duty a reserve soldier who was recorded hitting a member of Ta’ayush several days earlier in the Hebron Hills area, near the Pnei Hever settlement.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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