JERUSALEM — Israeli commandos stormed a famous Palestinian theater in the West Bank early Wednesday, arresting two men associated with it and damaging the building, a witness said.
The Freedom Theater in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, had been an oasis of so-called cultural resistance for decades, although it was in the news for a darker reason in April, when its director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot to death by masked gunmen just outside it.
An army spokeswoman would confirm only that two men were arrested near the theater but gave no details on why the arrests took place or whether they were related to Mr. Mer Khamis’s killing, which remains unsolved.
The witness, Jacob Gough, who has been managing the theater on an interim basis, said he was called there around 3 a.m. Wednesday and saw several dozen Israeli soldiers throwing rocks at the windows and then arresting Adnan Naghnaghiye, a technician and site director for the theater. Other troops went nearby to the house of Bilal Saadi, the chairman of the theater’s board, and arrested him after destroying the windows of his house, Mr. Gough added.
“I have been at the theater for three years and I have never seen anything like this,” he said by telephone from Jenin. “We’ve never had this kind of treatment.”
The soldiers, he said, ordered the two men to remove their trousers and lift their shirts. When he asked what was happening, Mr. Gough said, he was told to be quiet in harsh terms and at gunpoint.
He said the arrested men were taken to separate prisons and a lawyer had been hired to work on their cases.
Mr. Mer Khamis, 52, was a renowned actor and director who was born to an Israeli Jewish mother and a Palestinian Christian father. An Israeli citizen, he had lived for seven years in Jenin. His mother, a peace activist, founded the theater. A film Mr. Mer Khamis made about her work, “Arna’s Children,” received wide international praise.