Israeli special forces raided the Freedom Theater early on Wednesday morning, according to workers at the cultural institution in Jenin Refugee Camp in the West Bank and the Israeli army.
The theater said the following in a press release:
Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee
Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmed Nasser Matahen, a night
guard and technician student at the theatre, woke up by heavy blocks of stone
being hurled at the entrance of the theatre. As he opened the door he found
masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre.
Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told
me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me
to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My
brother that was with me was handcuffed.”
The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye, was arrested
and taken away to an uknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of
the board of the Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre,
Jacob Gough from the UK, and the co-founder of the threatre, Jonatan Stanczak from
Sweden, arrived to the scene, they were forced to squat next to a family with four
small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural
venue and arresting members of the theatre, we were told to supt and they
threatened to kick us. I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to
clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.”
The Israeli military has confirmed that it arrested two people near the theater but denies attacking the building.
The attack comes just a few months after unidentified gunmen, apparently Palestinians, shot dead Juliano Mer-Khamis, the Palestinian-Jewish actor who ran the theater.
Mer-Khamis’ mother founded the camp in the 1980s in order to support children in the refugee camp. Mer-Khamis documented the theater and its destruction by the Israeli military, during the first intifada, in his film Arna’s Children.