She was arrested, grabbed and carried across the shoulder by a soldier as if she was a piece of meat and taken away, only with her passport and phone and without her glasses. This is what happened to Stefania Costantini, an Italian volunteer in the Palestinian refugee camp in Dheisheh (Bethlehem), who was arrested during an Israeli army raid at dawn on Monday that triggered clashes with residents which ended with the killing of a 14-year-old Palestinian boy.
Amr Al Khamour was hit in the head by a bullet fired by soldiers. The doctors did all they could but they couldn’t save him.
Another teenager from Dheisheh, Adam Ayyad, 15, was killed earlier this year in another raid by Israeli forces in the refugee camp known to be a stronghold of the Palestinian left and where associations and NGOs from different countries operate.
On Saturday, two Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces in Qabatiya (Jenin). The two, Izz Eddin Hamamreh and 23-year-old Amjad Khalilieh, were members of Islamic Jihad.
Shortly before, a third Palestinian, Yazan Al Jaabari, 20, died of wounds sustained on January 2 in a firefight with the army. Another Palestinian was shot to death on Sunday; according to the Israeli authorities’ version of events, he had attempted to stab Israeli soldiers.
The number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of the year has grown to 14.
Stefania Costantini, 52, of Pisa, was not a member of any political organization, NGO or association. She was a volunteer in Dheisheh, where she had befriended local families and was carrying out solidarity work. The soldiers may have been given a tip by someone to raid the home of the mother of imprisoned activist and journalist Nidal Abu Aker, where Stefania Costantini was living as a guest at the time. It is unclear whether the Italian was forcibly taken away after the soldiers noticed an expired tourist visa on her passport. What is certain is that the Italian was not allowed to retrieve her luggage. During the hours she spent in detention, she was allowed to use her cell phone occasionally, but only to stay in contact with the Italian consular authorities in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv. In the afternoon, she was transferred to Ben Gurion Airport and put on an ITA flight from Tel Aviv to Rome.
Israeli authorities are claiming the reason for the Italian woman’s immediate deportation was related to her expired tourist visa. And they have not commented in any way on the video which has gone viral online and shows a soldier hauling the woman on his shoulder, ignoring her protests and screams.
For her part, Costantini, who was experiencing shoulder pain on Monday afternoon, denied that the reason for her deportation had anything to do with her expired visa. Rather, she denounced a “political arrest” related to her presence in Dheisheh in solidarity with Palestinians under occupation.
It is unlikely that Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani also mentioned the case of Stefania Costantini, taken away like a sack by soldiers, during his telephone conversation Monday with his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen. According to the note released by the Farnesina, Tajani remarked on the importance Italy attaches to the security of the State of Israel and expressed concern about developments in Iran. He then announced his intention to visit Israel to strengthen the bilateral partnership in every area, starting with economic and industrial cooperation. The date of Tajani’s trip to Israel is not yet known but is expected to be set between late February and early March. Giorgia Meloni also plans to pay an official visit to the Jewish state. She is scheduled to arrive in the spring.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the armed wing of Hamas released a video featuring Avera Menghistu, the young Ethiopian Israeli who entered Gaza eight years ago under unclear circumstances and has since been held captive by the Islamic movement along with an Israeli Bedouin. Hamas intends to exchange Menghistu, the other prisoner and the bodies of two soldiers who fell in the 2014 war for Palestinian political detainees imprisoned in Israel.
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