Israel deports Italian woman detained, 'beaten' by soldiers in Bethlehem raid

Israel deports Italian woman detained, 'beaten' by soldiers in Bethlehem raid
Israel has deported an Italian woman arrested during a military raid near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank, during which they also killed a 14-year-old boy.
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Israeli forces have conducted near-daily deadly raids in 2023 [HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images]

Israeli authorities said on Tuesday they had deported an Italian woman detained in a deadly military raid in the Bethlehem area of the occupied West Bank.

Stefania Costantini was arrested on Monday during a raid by Israeli forces into the Dheisheh refugee camp, in the southern West Bank, Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency said.

A 14-year-old boy was shot dead by Israeli forces during the raid.

Shin Bet said Costantini arrived on a tourist visa in May, and claims she was involved in the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militant group.

"Costantini was summoned in September 2022 for interrogation by the Shin Bet, but she did not report (to the authorities) and even continued her activities for the terrorist organisation," the agency said in a statement.

The PFLP is designated a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union.

After Costantini's arrest on Monday, she was handed over to Israel's Population and Immigration Authority, whose spokeswoman said she was deported the same day.

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Costantini, 50, said she was beaten by Israeli soldiers during her arrest.

"I tried to resist and they beat me a lot, they kicked me on the ground," she told AFP from the Italian city of Pisa.

"They were shouting that I was a terrorist," added Costantini, describing herself as a pro-Palestinian activist.

"When I was in the jeep, they kept kicking my legs with their boots," she said.

The Israeli military did not comment on the allegations when contacted by AFP.

Umm Nidal Abu Aker, 76, said she had hosted Costantini over the past five months.

"She didn't want to go with them but they hit her and carried her on the shoulders of one soldier," she said in her home, which was decorated with PFLP flags and those of other Palestinian groups.

Costantini "loved to show her solidarity with Palestinian people," said Abu Aker, describing the Italian visiting families of Palestinians killed and participating in protests.

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Her expulsion came the same day Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani spoke by phone to his Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen.

Neither mentioned Costantini's case in their statements about the call, published on Twitter.

The Italian consulate in Jerusalem did not respond to a request for comment on Costantini's deportation.

Israel's military has conducted near-daily fatal raids in the occupied West Bank with 15 Palestinians killed so far this year, including the 14-year-old boy on Monday. 

Nearly 150 Palestinians were shot dead in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2022, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B'Tselem, making it the deadliest year since 2004.

This includes Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh,  who was shot in the head during an Israeli raid in Jenin despite clearly being identifiable as press, who Palestinians say was assassinated.

Palestinians fear an even harsher use of force by Israeli forces in the occupied territories, following the formation of a far-right government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.