Eight foreign nationals have been arrested in the occupied territories as Israeli authorities clamp down on international peace activists on the ground on the basis that they pose a "security risk". The eight, who included two Britons, are being held in an Israeli police station in the West Bank and were refused bail. The Britons, Alex Perry and Saul Reid, were among a group of four arrested while removing a crude roadblock put up by the Israeli army to block Palestinian traffic - for security reasons, the army says. The other four were arrested while staging a sit-in to protest against Israel's construction of a "security fence" inside the West Bank. The fence has been of great concern to many Christians. Last month Christian Aid's director, Dr Daleep Mukarji, returned from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, criticising the Israeli security fence which will eventually surround the West Bank. The arrests were part of the Israeli army's attempts to crack down on foreign peace activists who travel to the occupied territories to protest against the Israeli army's tactics there, and in some cases to act as human shields for Palestinians. In particular the army is keen to put a stop to the activities of one particular organisation, to which the eight arrested are all affiliated: the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). The organisation has attracted hundreds of young peace activists here from Europe and the US since the start of the intifada. They take part in a variety of activities which range from working with Palestinian children to standing in the way of tanks. Many stay in Palestinian houses scheduled for demolition by the Israeli army, to prevent them being knocked down. In April the Israeli army issued orders to step up deportations of ISM activists. The Israeli authorities sought to link that order to the case of two British suicide bombers who posed as peace activists before carrying out an attack on a Tel Aviv bar that killed three people, but the order was issued two weeks before the attack. The ISM is openly pro-Palestinian but its protesters are unarmed non-combatants, and the ISM supports only non-violent protest, which makes it surprising that the Israel authorities have categorised the group and its activists a "security risk". The authorities say that by interfering with army operations in the occupied territories, the activists put the lives of soldiers at risk. The authorities' submission to court opposing bail for the activists read: "They should not be released from custody, not even within the Tel Aviv district and with a commitment by the plaintiffs not to leave that area," and says this is based on "the recommendation of security personnel, according to which the organisation ISM and its activists are perceived to be a security risk". The submission continues: "The goal of the ISM ... is to thwart the activity of the security forces in the territories and impede their work of preventing terrorism by confrontations with IDF soldiers, barricading themselves in the homes of suicide terrorists to prevent their demolition, transport of Palestinians between various areas during periods of closure, and the like". Several activists have been seriously wounded. The order to step up deportations came after an American activist, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, in March. Tom Hurndall, a British activist, is in a coma after being shot in the head by an Israeli sniper in Rafah a month later as he tried to help trapped Palestinian children out of the line of fire. Source: Ekklesia
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