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France

French diplomat thrown to ground by Israeli troops, aid seized

media French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing at the feet of Israeli troops Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini

France has demanded an explanation of an incident Friday in which Israeli soldiers manhandled a French diplomat and threw her to the ground. Marion Fesneau-Castaing and other European diplomats were trying to deliver tents and aid to Palestinians whose homes were demolished ealier in the week.

The soldiers threw sound grenades and dragged Fesneau-Castaing out of a truck, throwing her to the ground, when a group of EU diplomats and aid workers brought tents and emergency supplies to the roughly 120 residents of Khirbet Al-Makhul, a hamlet that the Israeli army demolished on Monday, Reuters news agency reports.

Dossier: Gaza 2009

"They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity," Castaing said. "This is how international law is being respected here."

The troops then drove away the lorry.

"This is a very regrettable incident and we have asked the Israeli authorities, who say they have opened an inquiry, for an explanation," French foreign affairs ministry Philippe Lallio told RFI.

The Israeli forces demolished houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday, following an Israeli High Court ruling that they did not have proper building permits.

The residents have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived and farmed for generations.

A military spokesperson said that "foreign activists violently objected" to the army preventing tents being set up, "throwing stones and striking law enforcement officers".

"Reports that foreign diplomats abused their diplomatic privileges are currently being reviewed, and if required, complaints will be filed with the relevant authorities," she added.

Fesneau-Castaing jabbed a soldier in the face after picking herself up off the ground. Reuters reporters, who say that other diplomats were also treated roughly, at the scene said they saw no stone throwing or foreign activists.

Efforts by the International Committee of the Red Cross to to provide aid to the villagers and erect tents for them were frustrated by Isralei soldiers.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, Ireland, Australia and the European Union's political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

Several villagers were detained during scuffles with the soldiers and an elderly Palestinian man fainted.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

The French foreign affairs ministry told RFI on Saturday that it was trying to establish exactly what happened on Friday.

Although Israelis and Palestinians recently resumed direct peace talks, the Palestinians accuse Israel of continuing to evict communities so as to use land for military purposes or hand it to settlers.

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