Four Palestinians detained after settlement visit

Around 30 Palestinians from two neighboring villages visited a celebration in the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat

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Four Palestinians have been detained by their security forces after attending a religious festival in a nearby Jewish settlement, a Palestinian security official said Friday.

Around 30 Palestinians from two neighboring villages visited a celebration in the occupied West Bank settlement of Efrat on Wednesday, Oded Revivi of the YESHA settlers council told AFP.

In total more than 100 people attended, including senior Israeli military and police officers, he said, as part of celebrations for the annual Jewish festival of Sukkot.

On Thursday, four men were called in for questioning by Palestinian security forces, a security spokesman told AFP. They were still detained on Friday afternoon.

“We heard from our neighbors they had received (summonses) for interrogation,” Revivi told AFP.

He said the men were senior figures in the local Palestinian villages of Wadi al-Nis and Al-Khadar.

In an interview with Israeli army radio, Mohammed Taha, deputy governor of the nearby town of Bethlehem, said it was against Palestinian law to normalize relations with Israeli settlements.

While Palestinians were free to talk to Israelis, “it is unacceptable, going inside (a settlement) is unacceptable”, he said.

Ofir Gendelman, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Twitter the incident showed the Palestinian leadership “tells the world it wants peace but in reality it arrests and threatens Palestinians who support neighborly relations with Israelis.”

Israel seized the West Bank in 1967 in a move never recognized by the international community.

More than 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, considered by the international community one of the largest obstacles to peace.

Thousands of Palestinians work in settlements but cannot normally enter the Jewish-only communities under other circumstances.

Earlier this month the US government condemned Israel’s settlement expansion.

Their continued growth “will only draw condemnation from the international community, distance Israel from many of its partners, and further call into question Israel’s commitment to achieving a negotiated peace,” the State Department said.

Revivi said the purpose of the festival was to improve relations between settlements and neighboring Palestinian communities.