Since early October 2015, the military has imposed broad restrictions on Palestinian movement in central Hebron, preventing residents from maintaining a reasonable routine. The military has blocked the entrances to some streets in the Old City, closed the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood to non-residents, introduced stricter inspections at 16 existing checkpoints, and established new checkpoints. Passersby are subjected to repeated and lengthy inspections and residents report that they feel imprisoned, leaving home only for work and studies.
Hebron city center
Today is International Human Rights Day, marking the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that states all people deserve life, security, liberty, equality and dignity. On the other side of the Green Line, a line essentially invisible to Israelis, millions of people – Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip - are being deprived of their rights, a deprivation particularly blatant in Hebron. To mark the day, we made a clip on the background to current events in Hebron, and the daily oppression in a city that has become a flashpoint for violent flare-ups.
Hebron residents are under increased travel restrictions since 29 Oct. Tel Rumeidah has been particularly affected: it was made off-limits to anyone not a neighborhood resident; locals may enter and exit only subject to strict screening. Palestinian stores in Hebron’s Old City are closed by military orders. These steps, alleged by the military to serve security, constitute collective punishment of Hebron residents, who are suspected of no wrongdoing, and must suffer serious disruptions to their daily lives, simply because of where they happen to live.
On 27 Oct. B’Tselem’s Hebron researcher Manal al-Ja'bri was injured documenting a protest. A rubber-coated metal bullet fired by Israeli security forces fractured a finger in her left hand. She was filming clashes between security forces and Palestinian youth near the Bab a-Zawiya Checkpoint, Hebron. Al-Ja'bri, in a blue B’Tselem vest, was standing with a group of journalists across the street and at a distance from the Palestinian stone throwers. There was no apparent reason for security forces to fire at her or at other journalists there.
B’Tselem documented a five-day (6-10 Oct. 2015) campaign of violence by settlers against Palestinians in Hebron. Settlers repeatedly threw stones and bottles at Palestinian homes near the Kiryat Arba settlement fence, while Israeli security forces looked on. Settler violence intensified after two attacks by Palestinians in Hebron: a settler sustained serious injuries and a Border Police officer was slightly injured; one perpetrator fled, the other was shot to death. In another incident, a confrontation developed with settlers and Palestinians throwing stones at each other. Soldiers stood by the former and fired tear-gas at the latter. This glimpse of daily life in Hebron is an extreme example of the imbalance of power throughout the West Bank, in which Israeli forces back settler violence targeting Palestinians.
On Tues. Sep. 22, soldiers shot and fatally wounded Hadil al-Hashlamun, 18, at a Hebron checkpoint. B’Tselem’s investigation indicates she had concealed a knife in her cloths and did not obey the soldiers’ orders, but that she did not try to stab them. After she was shot in both legs, there was no justification to aim at her torso. The military’s knee-jerk defense of the soldiers sends a message that there are few limits on the use of force against Palestinians, including lethal force.
In early April 2015 the Abu Haya family were subjected to repeated threats and harassment by Israeli security forces in Hebron. Among other things, soldiers detaining Maher Abu Haya (14) for alleged involvement in a stone-throwing incident near his home. After the boy denied the allegations, soldiers threatened to arrest him if he is seen once more in the vicinity of a stone-throwing incident, regardless of his involvement. For a week, soldiers came time and again to the family’s home and harassed them. The family, volunteers in B’Tselem’s camera project, filmed some of the incidents.
The severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the vicinity of the settlements in Hebron encourage the arbitrary and regular harassment of the residents. B'Tselem volunteer Raed Abu a-Rmeileh filmed a video showing what happened to an ice cream delivery intended for a grocery store owned by Anwar Maswdeh.
On 10 March ‘15, soldiers entered the home of ‘Imad and Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh, B'Tselem volunteers in Hebron. They awoke the children, photographed them, viewed footage filmed by the couple of life in Hebron and of Israeli security forces, and confiscated a hard disk and a memory card with data. Photographing and documentation are permitted in the West Bank, including of soldiers. B'Tselem urges the army to immediately return the confiscated property unharmed, and refrain from harassing its volunteers or hampering the work of photographers.
The military resumed its segregation on the main street of a-Salaimeh neighborhood, in force from Sep. 2012 to Mar. 2013 when it was abandoned following to the airing of footage by B'Tselem. The military again bans Palestinians from the main part of the street, directing them to a narrow side road. This is part of the military’s overall policy of severe restrictions on Palestinian movement in downtown Hebron, implemented ever since the 1994 massacre of Muslim worshippers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs perpetrated by settler Baruch Goldstein.
Late at night on 23 Feb. 2015 Israeli troops entered 10 neighboring apartments in Hebron. They demanded that the children be awakened, asked their names and photographed them. B’Tselem volunteers who live there filmed the incident. The military cannot treat civilians–and certainly not children–as potential criminals. Not only is this policy of entering Palestinian homes by night unjust and terrifying. It illustrates how casually and arbitrarily the lives of Palestinians under occupation are disrupted and their rights violated. B’Tselem calls on the military to discontinue this policy without delay.
Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint monitors passage of Palestinians from Tel Rumeidah to downtown Hebron. Its closure collectively punished hundreds for the actions of a few individuals. The checkpoint, like other restrictions on Palestinian movement in Hebron, serves no security purpose and is part of Israel’s separation policy in Hebron. The military must remove this and other unnecessary checkpoints in central Hebron. As long as the checkpoint remains, the military must enable regular passage and refrain from collective punishment.
On 4 Dec. 2014 two settlers were driving near Wadi a-Nasara checkpoint when a Palestinian youth threw stones at them. They got out of the car and attempted pursuit. Footage by a B’Tselem camera volunteer shows that when the pursuit proved unsuccessful, they vandalized nearby Palestinian property. Police and soldiers who arrived at the scene did not detain the two and allowed them to leave unhindered. This incident is part of the reality of live in Hebron, with the military and the police standing by as settlers take the law into their own hands.
Yesterday, soldiers briefly detained a developmentally disabled Palestinian boy, who is under the age of criminal responsibility, on suspicion that he had thrown stones. The boy, A. a-Rajbi, (full name withheld in interest of privacy) who will be 12 in a month, was detained after Palestinian children threw stones at soldiers on the main road of the Jabel Johar neighborhood in Hebron, close to the settlement of Kiryat Arba. A-Rajbi was handcuffed, blindfolded, and held on the floor of an army jeep for some 15 minutes until his father arrived and convinced the soldiers to release his son, who is mentally disabled and cannot speak.
On 16 Aug. settlers and Palestinians began throwing stones at each other behind the Beit Hadassah settlement in the city of Hebron. The settlers were throwing stones from a spot near a military guard post, yet the soldiers stationed there did nothing to stop them. Nonetheless, the soldiers used crowd control measures against the Palestinians who were throwing stones, and even detained two, one of them a boy. The military is duty-bound to take action to enforce the law on both parties. Refraining from action against violent settlers conveys a message that settlers may attack Palestinians and their property and get military protection to do so.
On Fri. 28 Mar. 2014 soldiers went up to the Sidrs’ roof. They filmed Shadi Sidr, his brother and a friend in the street below and aimed their weapons at them. Sidr demanded the soldiers explain their presence; they demanded he leave. After the filmed exchange, the soldiers unjustifiably detained the three men for hours. Soldiers are allowed virtually unrestricted access to Palestinian homes, thereby violating people’s privacy and property. B’Tselem sent a complaint to the Legal Advisor in Judea and Samaria regarding the unjustified detention.
The short film “Smile, and the World Will Smile Back”, was accepted by North America's largest documentary film festival, Toronto's Hot Docs festival. Filmed by the al-Haddad family of Hebron and made in collaboration with B'Tselem's camera project was recently shown at at the Berlin International Film Festival.
On Saturday B’Tselem volunteer Shadi Sidr filmed a settler trying to take down a Palestinian from Sidr’s own roof. Soldiers then arrived, demanding Sidr satisfy the settler’s whim of removing the flag. B’Tselem avers that soldiers must ensure the safety of Palestinians. Soldiers must not abandon a Palestinian to fend for himself. Soldiers are obliged to safeguard Palestinians, the protected population of the West Bank. It goes without saying that soldiers must not aid and abet trespassing settlers or their whims.
B'Tselem has written to Legal Advisor for Judea and Samaria Col. Doron Ben-Barak notifying him of two recent incidents in which soldiers unlawfully detained children, some under the age of criminal responsibility, on suspicion of throwing stones. Although both incidents were relatively short, the children involved remained very frightened. Video footage of the incidents gives a glimpse into the harsh daily routine of many Palestinian minors and their parents, which will undoubtedly have long-term implications for the children.
Over the past decade downtown Hebron has become a ghost town. Israel has enacted a strict segregationist policy there, enforced by imposing stringent restrictions on Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles, closing shops and businesses, and not safeguarding Palestinians from settler violence. As a result, entire neighborhoods have been deserted. We took a group of American Young Judeans on a tour of downtown Hebron. This was the first time most of them had been to downtown Hebron. Sharon Azran, a photographer and a B’Tselem staff member, joined the tour. Below are some of her photos: