Palestinian Authority Releases Four Who Visited Settlers' Sukkah

Release of villagers, who allegedly violated Authority's boycott of settlements, brought about after intervention of IDF officials. Netanyahu says arrests 'further proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace.'

AFP

The Palestinian Authority released on Sunday four Palestinians who were arrested after they visited a sukkah in the Israeli settlement of Efrat on Thursday.

The four, who were held for violating the Authority's boycott of the settlements, were released after the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories intervened. 

According to the Efrat council, Riyad Abu Hamad, Yakoub Mousa Abu Hamad, Farouk Mousa Abu Hamad and Mohammad Ahmed Abu Hamad were invited to the sukkah, along with other Palestinians, by regional council mayor Oded Revivi, who said the event was meant to promote peace.

Also present were Israeli Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon and Deputy Police Commissioner Moshe Barkat, commander of the Jerusalem division. 

Indictments weren't served against the Palestinians and officials said that they had been arrested for questioning and also for their protection, in light of threats against them that spread on social media.

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took to Facebook to criticize the arrests, terming them "further proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace" and calling on the international community to help free the four men. 

The prime minister also took to task Israeli human rights organizations for their "silence" on the matter. Last week, Netanyahu severely criticized the anti-occupation organization B'Tselem, after the nonprofit's CEO addressed a UN Security Council session on the settlements. 

Efrat Regional Council Mayor Revivi also released a statement on Sunday, calling for the release of his "Sukkot 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," he said. 

"It’s time the Palestinian Authority asks itself whether it would prefer to fan the flames of conflict instead of working to bring people together,” said Revivi.