(It's about time someone noticed)

Amnesty Says Israel Shutting Out Foreign Scrutiny
Fri May 9, 2003 01:05 PM ET

BEIT SAHOUR, West Bank (Reuters) - The rights group Amnesty
International accused Israel on Friday of trying to prevent outside
scrutiny of its army after a military clamp down on foreign activists
working in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israeli troops raided premises in the West Bank used by the
International Solidarity Movement on Friday, arresting three people,
the ISM said.

Separately, the Israeli army said it would now oblige foreigners
entering Palestinian-ruled Gaza to sign a waiver absolving Israel of
responsibility for their safety, a procedure already in place for
Israeli civilians.

"This comes as a result of recent events in which foreign nationals
abused their status to carry out terror attacks," the army statement
said, referring to a deadly attack by a British suicide bomber and
his accomplice last week in Tel Aviv.

ISM has deployed dozens of foreign volunteers in the West Bank and
Gaza combat zones to protect Palestinians from Israeli military
actions during a 31-month-old Palestinian uprising.

George Rashmawi, an ISM coordinator in the West Bank, said three
women were arrested in Friday's raid -- a U.S. volunteer for the
group, an Australian member of Human Rights Watch and a Palestinian
who was released shortly afterwards. There was no immediate comment
from Human Rights Watch.

Israel maintains that groups like the ISM endanger themselves and
soldiers with their actions and disrupt the army's efforts to thwart
attacks by Palestinian militants.

The ISM denies any links with the British bomber and his accomplice,
who had entered Israel from Gaza and attended an ISM gathering.

Amnesty International said in a statement that it feared the new
restrictions aimed "to prevent outside monitoring and scrutiny of the
conduct of the Israeli army" and that they could lead to "more
killings in Gaza."

Recently in Gaza, a British cameraman was shot as he approached
Israeli troops in the dark and an Israeli bulldozer crushed an
American ISM member to death as she tried to block the demolition of
a Palestinian home.

The raid in Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, appeared to be part of a
crackdown on the ISM.

Ghassan Andoni, director of Beit Sahour's Palestinian Center for
Rapprochement Between People, a group that helped found the ISM, said
the army sent a truck and 15 vehicles to the center.

"There were three women there at the time," he told Reuters. "They
(the soldiers) took our servers, laptops and files."

Military sources confirmed the raid. Gil Kleiman, an Israeli police
spokesman, said two foreigners had been detained after violating a
military order banning them from the area.

He did not identify them, but said their details would be given to
the Interior Ministry after they were questioned by police. The
ministry is in charge of expulsions from Israel.

The ISM said one of its members had also been detained by Israeli
forces at the Israel-Gaza border on Friday.

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