21 Nov. '11: Video: Soldiers let settlers assault Palestinian demonstrators

21 Nov 2011

A B'Tselem volunteer documented soldiers enabling settlers to enter a buffer strip around a settlement and throw stones at demonstrators

On the afternoon of 29 October 2011, a Saturday, residents of the Palestinian village Beit Ummar demonstrated against the theft of their land for the benefit of the Carmei Tzur settlement and against denial of their access to the land. The demonstration was held by the special security area (SSA) surrounding the settlement. SSAs are buffer strips that surround settlements, and are not part of the settlements themselves. In the case of Carmei Tzur, the SSA is primarily composed of privately-owned land of Palestinian residents of Beit Ummar and Halhul. The land was ostensibly taken to create a buffer strip to protect the settlers from attacks by Palestinians. In practice, settlers enter these areas freely, while the Palestinian landowners must obtain special permits to enter, and these are given sparingly.

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During the demonstration, settlers entered the SSA and threw stones at the demonstrators outside it. A Palestinian photographer who was filming the events was injured when a stone struck him in the head.

Video footage of the events shows armed persons in civilian clothes – apparently security officials from the settlement – within the SSA. They did not intervene. Soldiers on both sides of the SSA's fence made no real attempt to stop the settlers' violent acts or to remove them from the SSA. Instead, they threw stun grenades and fired tear gas at the demonstrators, forcing them away. To the best of B'Tselem’s knowledge, nobody was detained following the incident.

The injured photographer told B'Tselem that he went to the Kiryat Arba police station to file a complaint, but was not allowed to enter. After waiting an hour and a half outside, police officers told him they were busy and would not be able to take his complaint.

B'Tselem wrote to the police, demanding that the stone throwing by the settlers be investigated. B'Tselem also wrote to the Military Advocate General Corps, calling for investigation of the soldiers’ conduct. B'Tselem also protested that the soldiers and the settlement’s security officials enabled settlers to stay in the SSA and assault Palestinian demonstrators from there. The organization demanded that the brigade commander order the soldiers who were present to give statements to the police regarding the incident.