Israel Regularly Detains a Known Palestinian Activist – Without a Restraining Order

International peace activist Issa Amro claims he is often arrested and held up by the military at checkpoints, sometimes for up to two hours; the IDF denies that a special warrant was issued against him

Palestinian activist Issa Amro in Hebron.
Olivier Fitoussi

For weeks, the IDF has been restricting the movement of prominent Palestinian political activist Issa Amro, although no restraining order has been issued against him. Amro says that he has been detained without justification at least 20 times in recent weeks at checkpoints in Hebron, where he lives, sometimes for as long as two hours.

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The IDF says Amro was detained once on the basis of an order that was issued against him after he created a provocation, and other times by mistake. The army insists there is no order to restrict his activity.

Amro, a well-known activist in Hebron who earns his living in part by giving guided tours of the city, has been accused in the past of assaulting and insulting soldiers. He says that lately he has frequently been detained, sometimes for a short time but other times for an hour and a half or two hours. He says that at the checkpoints he is told by the soldiers that Yehuda Brigade Commander Itzik Cohen has ordered not to let him pass and that there is a “verbal” injunction against him. The army denies the existence of any such order.

In April and May, Amro was detained at least 12 times and his lawyer, Roni Pelli of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, had to ask the army to let him pass, as indicated by the correspondence between Pelli and the judicial unit of the Civil Administration. On April 15, Maj. Hagai Rothstein wrote that a “closed zone order was issued for Amro with the individual approval of a brigade commander. There is no blanket prohibition on his movement in the area.” However, a few days later, on April 22-23, Amro was detained at checkpoints. On April 24, he was detained again near the market in Hebron and only allowed to pass after Rothstein intervened.

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Similar delays occurred later in April as well as in May and June. In each case, the lawyer contacted the Civil Administration, which contacted the soldiers and told them to let Amro pass. The army confirmed that there were “mistakes” in the past regarding the restriction of Amro’s movement but says these were isolated occurrences that were dealt with. Last Thursday, after Haaretz had inquired about the matter, Amro was detained once more for 15 minutes. The IDF Spokesperson says the soldiers in the area have been given a refresher concerning the procedures for Amro.

Roni Pelli says: “The military command is using its unlimited power in Hebron to harass one man. This harassment is part of the separation policy that the army has followed in Hebron for almost two decades. A policy that has turned the center of Hebron into a ghost town and made the movement of Issa Amro and the city’s other protected residents impossible.”

The IDF Spokesperson says: “Issa Amro has been regularly disturbing the public order in Hebron for years, hindering the activity of the security forces and, more than once, has used violence toward them. Amro is entitled to move about Hebron in accordance with the rules that apply to all the inhabitants, and there is no order that limits his movement personally. Instances in which he claims to have been detained without justification were investigated and dealt with by the relevant authorities.”