20 April 2009

Israel Lays Siege in Bethlehem to Cover For Thieves

Bethlehem – Ma’an Exclusive – Israeli forces besieged the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem on Sunday night, closing all military checkpoints leading to the area.

As a result, more than 200,000 residents of the city were under collective punishment under the pretext that an Israeli settler came under fire in the eastern Bethlehem district, near Tuqu’ village.

However, Ma’an has learned that the Israeli claims were false, and that the siege on Bethlehem was meant to provide coverage for thieves who broke into the home of Bassam Musallam in the town of Beit Jala; Palestinian police detectives reportedly seized them red-handed. Interrogations revealed that the thieves were holders of Israeli IDs.

Israeli authorities demanded that the Palestinian Authority (PA) hand over the thieves immediately as a precondition for lifting the military siege on Bethlehem. Palestinian security services were forced to hand the thieves over hours after they were arrested. They are from the Palestinian town of Beit Naquba in Jerusalem (under Israeli control).

Ma’an learned from Bethlehem police that during detention, the men admitted stealing 7,000 Israeli shekels (1,664 US dollars) and quantities of jewelry from the home of Nizar Ghattas in Beit Jala on 18 April 2009.

Palestinian police added that another alleged thief from Beit Safafa, also under Israel’s control, was still on the run, and that police have continued efforts to catch him. But PA police do not have access to areas under Israel’s control, where thieves tend to take shelter.