5 July 05

   Army and settlers abuse cave residents in attempt to expel them  

This week, B'Tselem is publishing a report describing the continuing effort of Israel to expel the Palestinians who live in caves in the southern Hebron hills. The residents were expelled in 2000 and then received an order from Israel's High Court of Justice allowing them to return to their homes until their legal petition is heard. Since then, the residents have been living with the threat of expulsion hovering over their heads.

The report describes the lives of the residents under the intimidation of a group of particularly violent settlers who live nearby. These settlers have continually attacked the Palestinians and damaged their property. The police do little to enforce the law against the settlers, and the army does even less. In some cases, soldiers have even assisted settlers in committing their violent acts.

In addition, on a few occasions, the army destroyed the residents' farmland by driving tanks and other armored vehicles onto the fields. Furthermore, the Civil Administration prohibits the residents from building in their villages, even construction to provide a proper water supply and to meet other basic needs.

The report's findings raise the concern that Israel is attempting to gradually wear down the residents and get them to leave the area, an achievement they have not yet been able to attain in court.

In the report, B'Tselem protests the attempted expulsion and Israel's current policy toward the residents, which severely infringe their human rights and flagrantly breaches international law. B'Tselem calls on the government of Israel to cancel the eviction orders currently pending against the cave residents; instruct the army and police to protect the cave residents and to seriously enforce the law against violent settlers; and compensate Palestinians whose land and personal property were damaged by settlers, the army, or the Civil Administration.

Cave residents in the southern Hebron hills. Photo: B'Tselem
Cave residents in the southern Hebron hills. Photo: B'Tselem

   High Court delays construction of wall north of Jerusalem  

On 22 June 2005, the High Court of Justice issued a temporary order preventing the state from building a separation wall along part of the planned route north of Jerusalem. The section runs inside Dahiyat al-Barid, a neighborhood just outside the city limits, adjacent to the town of a-Ram. The proposed route would run right through the neighborhood, preventing some residents from reaching Jerusalem, and others from reaching a-Ram. The order was issued following an application made by the head of the a-Ram Town Council and a group of local residents who oppose the partition of the community.

The separation wall under construction will surround a-Ram on three sides. In addition to the southern section, to which the court order applies, a wall eight meters high west of the town has already been built. Another section, east of the town, is currently under construction.

The wall around a-Ram will detach the town from the surrounding areas, and will severely impair the lives of its 60,000 residents. The residents rely on East Jerusalem and nearby villages for all aspects of daily life: business and employment, education, health, and family ties. As the construction of the wall progresses, these basic functions increasingly suffer. Half of the residents of a-Ram carry Israel identity cards, and since the barrier's construction began, several thousand of them have moved to East Jerusalem to avoid the difficulties they will encounter if they continue to live in a-Ram.

A section of the separation wall north of Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters
A section of the separation wall north of Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters

   Hebron Settlers attack child and injure person who tries to help him  

On 22 June 2005, Muhammad a-Sharif, a ten-year-old child who lives in Hebron, was selling sweets on the street to earn some money for his family. Muhammad told B'Tselem what happened: "…two boys from the al-Madhun family bought sweets from me. At the same moment, a group of five or six settlers started to harass me. They came near me, shouted at me and tried to attack me… Just then, a man who looked about thirty years old came from the direction of a-Sahala Street. He walked towards Abed Checkpoint, and I wasn't more than fifteen meters away from it. He was wearing work clothes. When I was by the stairs of the 'Abd al-Mahdi Qafisha family's house, that man grabbed me by the shoulder and told me not to be afraid. He continued to walk alongside me to shield me from the settlers. Suddenly, the settlers rushed towards the man and violently attacked him. A settler in an orange shirt hit him hard on the chest and knocked him down. The man fell on his back. It appeared that he had hit his head on the asphalt, because he wasn't moving."

At that moment, the child ran home. Malaka Qafisha, an eyewitness, told B'Tselem: "The settler in the orange shirt hit him hard on the chest. The man fell on his back, started to shake, and then stopped moving. I screamed and said that he was dead. My mother-in-law ran over to me and saw the man lying on the ground. At the same moment, another man, in his fifties I think, told me to bring water quickly. I went into the house, filled a bottle with water and brought it to the man. He splashed the water on the man lying on the ground."

The man beaten by the settlers was Fares al-Batesh, a resident of the city. Soldiers arrived at the scene within a few minutes, gave him first-aid, and evacuated him to Soroka Hospital, in Beersheva. Al-Batesh was released within an hour and taken to a checkpoint far from Hebron. In his testimony to B'Tselem, he said: "I told the policeman that I didn't have any money to take a taxi. He replied in Arabic, 'That is none of my business.' The patrol van turned around and they left." Al-Batesh started to walk toward Hebron, suffering from pains to his head. A few hours passed before a driver stopped and took him to where he could find a taxi to Hebron. Al-Batesh later went to 'Alyah Hospital, in Hebron, where the doctors examined him and found that he had suffered a fractured skull.

"The man fell on his back, started to shake, and then stopped moving. I screamed and said that he was dead"

Malika Qafisha


   Amendment denying compensation to Palestinians  

The Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is now discussing a proposed amendment to the Civil Wrongs Law that will exempt Israel from compensating Palestinians who are injured by Israeli security forces. This amendment has already passed a first reading in the Knesset plenum. If it is approved by the Committee it returns to the plenum for the second and third votes necessary to enact it into law.

Now is the time to ensure that the bill does not pass. Write to the Committee chairperson, MK Micha'el Eitan, by fax at 972-2-6496404 or by E-mail at meitan@knesset.gov.il, requesting him to prevent Committee approval of the proposed bill.

Write to the Chair of the Knesset Law Committee, MK Micha'el Eitan, urging him to prevent passage of the amendment denying compensation to victims of rights violations.