The Israeli army swept into Ramallah in the West Bank Sunday in a pre-dawn raid to arrest two Western tourists.
The women were seized from a Ramallah home where they were staying, after soldiers broke down the door. The two had taken part in protests against the Israeli barrier which has been constructed throughout the West Bank.
One of the women is from Australia, and the other from Spain.
They were named as Bridgette Chappell, of Australia and Ariadna Jove Marti of Spain.
Twenty soldiers armed with M16 rifles took part in the raid. They confiscated cameras, a computer, pro-Palestinian banners and ISM registration forms, according to Ryan Olander, of the United States who was also staying at the home.
Even though the tourists were seized in Ramallah, that serves as the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said the two women were “staying in Israel illegally, their visas had expired.”
They were taken to the Givon detention centre where they were told they would be deported. They claim they were not provided with any meals. Intervening to prevent their deportation, lawyers acting for the two filed an urgent petition with the Israel Supreme Court, and later Monday the women were released on bail.
A central issue was that the Israeli army, under the Oslo 1993 accords, cannot enter Ramallah without informing, and gaining the consent of, the Palestinian Authority. In court on Monday lawyers for the army admitted the error.
Chappell, 22, who has been studying at Birzeit University in Ramallah for the last 5 months, told the court her arrest had nothing to do with her visa expiring. “This is about shutting down international protests against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land,” she said.
Weekly protests against the Israeli barrier are promoted as non-violent but clashes frequently erupt with Palestinian youths throwing stones, and the army firing rubber bullets and tear gas.
A new immigration police task force known as the Oz Unit took part in the raid, the third such raid targeting foreigners in the past two weeks.