JERUSALEM (JTA) — Four Palestinians who were arrested by Palestinian Authority security forces after they visited the sukkah of a West Bank mayor were released following Israeli intervention.
The men who visited the Efrat sukkah of Oded Revivi were from the nearby Palestinian village of Wadi Al Nis. They were released from PA custody on Sunday evening after the intervention of COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories unit of Israel’s Defense Ministry.
The men had joined several dozen other Palestinians living near Efrat in visiting the sukkah along with about 30 Jewish Israelis during the harvest holiday as part of a peace event.
Earlier on Sunday, Revivi had issued a statement calling on the PA to release his guests. “It is absurd that having coffee with Jews is considered a crime by the Palestinian Authority. Initiatives that seek to foster cooperation and peace between people should be encouraged, not silenced,” the statement had said.
In a Sunday afternoon Facebook post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chastized human rights organizations for their silence in the wake of the arrests, calling it the organizations’ “great shame.” He called on the international community to intervene.
“I call on the international community to work to help free these innocent Palestinians whose imprisonment is yet another proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace,” Netanyahu wrote.
Khaled Tafish, a parliamentarian in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said on Palestinian television, according to the Jerusalem Post, “If they knew that there would be a punishment and that they will be pursued for doing that, then the incident would not have happened.”
Palestinian Authority Deputy Governor of Bethlehem Muhammad Taha said the incident was under investigation and the men will be held accountable under Palestinian law, according to The Jerusalem Post. He also said Palestinians “condemn” the visit and that “visiting settlers is completely unacceptable.”