Palestinians free four held after visiting settlement during Sukkot
RAMALLAH - Security forces in the West Bank have released four Palestinian men detained last week after visiting a Jewish settlement during a religious festival, a security official said Monday.
"They were released Sunday afternoon," three days after the Palestinian security forces took them into custody, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The men were among about 30 Palestinians who visited the West Bank settlement of Efrat on Wednesday during the annual Jewish festival of Sukkot, Oded Revivi of the Yesha council for settlements told AFP.
Palestinians are forbidden from "normalising" relations with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which the Jewish state seized in 1967 in a move the international community has never recognised.
Around 80 other people attended the celebrations in Efrat, including senior Israeli military and police officers, said the security official.
The four Palestinians had been called in for questioning on Thursday, the official added, without saying if they had been charged with any crime.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Facebook that the four men "did no harm to anyone" by visiting the settlement.
"I call on the international community to work to help free these innocent Palestinians whose imprisonment is yet another proof of the Palestinian refusal to make peace," he said Sunday.
More than 400,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank, considered by the international community one of the largest obstacles to peace.
Thousands of Palestinians work in settlements but cannot normally enter the Jewish-only communities under other circumstances.
The US government has recently intensified its criticism of Israel's ongoing settlement expansion, saying it was endangering the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict.