Arab resident says he agreed after IDF officer promised to release young neighbor that was arrested for throwing stones.
Israeli soldiers turned up for the second time on Saturday at a home in Hebron to order the removal of a Palestinian flag, even though the Israel Defense Forces said last week there is no policy against displaying flags.
Shadi Sider, a member of a Palestinian family living near the Jewish settlement enclave of Beit Hadassah, said the soldiers had arrested a neighbor for allegedly throwing stones and conditioned his release on the removal of the flag. Sider said he capitulated to their demand and took it down.
“[The soldiers] arrested a youth who lives in the building, claiming he threw stones,” Sider said. “They said they would release the boy if we took down the flag. There was an important officer with them so we agreed and took it down.”
An IDF official denied Sider’s claim about the Palestinian youth who was arrested, saying he was freed because he is too young to be criminally responsible. Convincing is all it took to get the flag removed, the source said.
The IDF declined to give an official comment.
Just over a week ago, following the first attempt by soldiers to have the flag removed, the IDF said there was no official policy that says Palestinians cannot display flags. “There is no intention to implement such a policy,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. “It was a local decision. The matter will be looked into.”
However, the IDF commander in Hebron, Avi Bluth, later decided to have the flag taken down, explaining its display has disturbed the status quo between Jewish settlers and Palestinian residents in Hebron.
What prompted the initial visit by Israeli soldiers to Sider’s house was a request by a settler who only turned to the soldiers for help after failing to remove the flag himself. The settler had climbed onto a ladder to try and reach the flag, but became entangled in barbed wire. He attracted a crowd of onlookers who recorded the scene. After a short while soldiers arrived to extricate him.
When the soldiers, who were accompanied by an officer, knocked on Sider’s door to ask him to remove the flag they were met with refusal. They said they were acting on orders from brigade headquarters. Tempers quickly flared, and the soldiers threatened to arrest Sider. But then the officer called brigade headquarters to warn that cameras were present, asking, “Do you want me to remove it by force?” About 10 minutes later, the soldiers left but said they would return with an official order.
Hebron settlers released a statement saying the footage of the affair, taken by a tourist, only shows half the story, and that Sider “provoked” the settler by waving the flag and “taunting” him.
“The flag may not be defined as illegal but it represents the [Palestine Liberation Organization], a terrorist organization that has never recognized Israel and has never renounced its murderous intentions,” the Beit Hadassah statement read.
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