The "quiet transfer" in Hebron

14 May 2007

Palestinians forced to leave thousands of apartments and businesses in the City Center

B'Tselem and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) are today presenting Knesset members with a report containing dramatic figures on the dispossession of Palestinian residents of the center of Hebron . The massive exit from the City Center resulted, as the report shows, from Israel 's policy of separation based on national-ethnic origin. The findings are based on the first comprehensive survey on occupancy of Palestinian dwellings and businesses near the settlement points in the city.

The survey shows at least 1,014 Palestinian housing units, which represent 41.9 percent of the housing units in the area, lie vacant. Of these, 659 (65 percent) became vacant during the course of the second intifada. Regarding Palestinian commercial establishments, 1,829 (76.6 percent of all the business establishments in the area) are no longer open for business. Of the closed businesses, 1,141 (62.4 percent) were closed during the second intifada. At least 440 businesses were closed pursuant to military orders.

The report paints a dismal picture: Israeli actions, which are based on a policy preferring the settlers' interests, have turned Hebron 's City Center into a ghost town. The principal factors responsible for the destruction of Palestinians' fabric of life in the City Center are severe restrictions on movement - which included prolonged periods of curfew at the beginning of the intifada and now include a total prohibition on Palestinian pedestrians and vehicles from using main streets in the city - closing of businesses by army order, and the failure of law-enforcement authorities to enforce the law on settlers who assault Palestinians and damage their property. The report also describes the routine violence and harassment by security forces and the extensive taking of Palestinian homes for army use.

B'Tselem and ACRI urge the government of Israel to return the center of Hebron to its former condition, and allow Palestinians to move freely on the city's streets and to return to homes they were forced to leave. Also, the government must ensure that the security forces carry out their duties and enforce law and order on violent settlers, and prevent settlers from taking control of additional buildings and areas in the city.