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Lawyer says Israel holding French-US prof under military law after W. Bank clash

Frank Romano’s detention time allegedly extended through the ‘exceptional’ application of military legislation; lawyer unable to confirm if client has undertaken a hunger strike

Israeli border police arrest American university professor Frank Romano in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on September 14, 2018 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)
Israeli border police arrest American university professor Frank Romano in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on September 14, 2018 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

A French-American university professor, who was arrested Friday during a protest at a Bedouin village in the West Bank slated for demolition by Israel, is being detained until Monday, his lawyer said.

Gaby Lasky said Saturday that her client, Frank Romano, was being held in a Jerusalem jail, and that police said he would appear before an Israeli military court on Monday.

“In a very exceptional way, military legislation that is enforced in the West Bank has been applied to Frank Romano, who is accused of obstructing the action of Israeli police and soldiers, so that the maximum time before comes before a judge is 96 hours,” Lasky told AFP.

She added that Israeli law requires civilians and tourists be held no longer than 24 hours before seeing a judge and that she will ask for an Israeli judge to intervene so that her client’s fate is decided under Israeli law.

According to B’Tselem, an Israeli NGO working in the West Bank, Romano has started a hunger strike and will continue “until the abandonment” of the decision to raze the Bedouin village.

Lasky told AFP she was unable to confirm the hunger strike.

Romano was among dozens of activists in Khan al-Ahmar to try to block the expected demolition of the encampment. Israel’s expected action has drawn international condemnation.

Israeli border police arrest American university professor Frank Romano in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on September 14, 2018 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)
Israeli border police arrest American university professor Frank Romano in the West Bank Bedouin community of Khan al-Ahmar on September 14, 2018 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, File)

On Friday, scuffles broke out between Israeli security forces and pro-Palestinian protesters at the site. Activists said that Romano stood in front of a bulldozer that was clearing barriers that had been set up to slow demolition.

Israeli police confirmed three people were detained for causing disturbances at Khan al-Ahmar on Friday, but did not release details of their identities.

Last week, the High Court of Justice cleared the way for the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar, rejecting a final appeal amid a growing international outcry over the fate of the West Bank community.

Israel says Khan al-Ahmar, a hamlet of corrugated shacks east of Jerusalem, was illegally built and has offered to resettle residents 12 kilometers (7 miles) away.

Opponents of the demolition argue that it is part of an effort to enable the expansion of the nearby settlement of Kfar Adumim and to create a region of contiguous Israeli control from Jerusalem almost to the Dead Sea, a move critics say will bisect the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

Israeli forces on Thursday demolished five trailers that were set up recently outside the hamlet. The trailers, erected out of shipping containers, had been set up earlier in the week as a form of protest against the expected razing.

Activist Abdallah Abu Rahmeh said that setting up the white structures, one of them flying a Palestinian flag, served as a message to Israel that “it’s our right to build on our land.”

The United Nations and the European Union have repeatedly warned Israelthat razing Khan al-Ahmar would undermine peace efforts with Palestinians and constitutes a violation of international law.

On Thursday, the EU Parliament passed a resolution saying the impending resolution would set a “negative precedent” for other Bedouin communities facing demolition in the West Bank.

Israel bears full responsibility for providing the necessary services, including education, healthcare and welfare, for the people living under its occupation, in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the resolution read.

Israel claims the structures, mostly makeshift shacks and tents, were built without permits and pose a threat to the village residents because of their proximity to a highway.

But the villagers — who have lived at the site, then in controlled Jordan, since the 1950s, after the state evicted them from their Negev homes — argue that they had little alternative but to build without Israeli construction permits, as such permits are almost never issued to Palestinians for building in places in Area C of the West Bank, such as Khan al-Ahmar, where Israel has full control over civilian affairs.

Under the Oslo Accords, the West Bank was split into three areas: A, which is governed by the PA; B, which is under joint Israeli-PA control; and C, which is under full Israeli control.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem claims that the demolition is part of a plan to minimize Palestinian presence in Area C, which accounts for 60 percent of the West Bank.

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