The Abu Shamsiyeh family lives in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeidah in the center of the city of Hebron. The settlement of Admot Yishai was established just a few meters away from Tel Rumeidah in 1984. Ever since, Israeli settlers and security forces have turned the lives of the local Palestinian residents into a living hell of draconian travel restrictions and constant harassment and violence. This reality has driven dozens of families out of the neighborhood. Feeling the neighborhood was too dangerous for their eldest sons, ‘Imad (49) and Fayzeh (45) Abu Shamsiyeh sent ‘Awni (20) and Muhammad (17) to live with relatives in al-’Eizariyah in northern East Jerusalem.
On Friday, 10 May 2019, the two brothers came home to visit. At around 6:00 P.M., they went out with their friend Tareq Salhab (19), who also lives in Tel Rumeidah, to buy groceries for iftar [the daily meal breaking the Ramadan fast]. They were on their way home when two settlers – a man and a woman – drove by. The man honked at them and ‘Awni gave him the finger. The settler then pulled over and got out of the car. He began swearing at ‘Awni and attempted to assault him. ‘Awni swore back. A soldier in civilian clothes who was passing by ordered them to be on their way. Muhammad and ‘Awni walked Tareq to his grandfather’s home at the end of the street, across from the entrance to the settlement of Admot Yishai. The settlers followed them in their car, stopped at the entrance to the settlement and spoke to a soldier stationed there. The settler and soldier then approached ‘Awni and an altercation ensued. At that point, more soldiers came on the scene and Muhammad ran home to get his parents. After they got there, a fight broke out between the family and the soldiers and settlers. At some point during the exchange, soldiers forcibly removed Fayzeh’s hijab [head scarf].
Fayzeh Abu Shamsiyeh, 45, a Hebron Municipality employee, described the incident in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 12 May 2019:
.My son Muhammad came home and told me soldiers had detained his brother ‘Awni. He went right back out to the street and I ran after him. I saw ‘Awni being held in a small alley. He was surrounded by many soldiers. I tried to go to him, but one of the soldiers shoved me and blocked my way. I heard ‘Awni yell at the soldier: “Don’t touch my mother!” At that point, Muhammad and his friend Tareq tried to get to me to help me, but the soldier handcuffed them – with their hands behind their backs ¬– and walked them toward the settlement.
I followed them into the settlement. Soldiers and settlers tried to block my way, but I managed to keep running and follow the soldiers. I saw them lead Muhammad and Tareq into a shipping container. Then, soldiers in civilian clothing and some female Border Police officers conducted me out of the settlement, and as they were doing that, they pushed me and pulled off my hijab. It was very humiliating.
I saw soldiers brought ‘Awni too, also in handcuffs, toward the settlement. I told him not to be afraid. I told that I was there, nearby.
In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Musa Abu Hashhash on 19 May 2019, ‘Awni Abu Shamsiyeh, 20, who work as a mechanic in al-‘Eizariyah, described what happened after the soldiers intervened:
One of the soldiers called Tareq, and then he called me too. I asked my brother Muhammad to go home, because he was carrying the groceries we had bought. Within minutes, more soldiers gathered around, and a military officer told me to give him my ID card and cell phone. He dragged me over to the street corner, and two soldiers frisked me. In the meantime, I saw Muhammad coming back from the house and sitting down on the sidewalk, next to Tareq. One of the soldiers knocked Muhammad to the ground and beat him. I pushed the two soldiers away from me and ran over to Muhammad. The soldiers were trying to handcuff him, and I tried to get them to leave him alone.
In the meantime, I saw my mother trying to reach Muhammad and one of the soldiers shoving her and trying to keep her from coming near. I got mad and yelled at the soldiers to lay off my mother. A few soldiers dragged me away from there, beat me and tried to handcuff me. Meanwhile, my father came and tried to calm me down. In the end, the soldiers handcuffed me, with my hands behind my back.
A few minutes later, the soldiers led me into the settlement. On the way, I saw soldiers leading my mother out of the settlement. She must have run after Muhammad. She was angry. She was shouting and one of the soldiers was pushing her.
I resisted, until I managed to cut the plastic cable ties off my hands and ran toward my mother, but the soldiers grabbed me and handcuffed me again. They led me into a shipping container that’s inside the settlement.
Inside, I saw Muhammad and Tareq sitting on the floor. The soldier ordered me to sit down on the floor. I refused. I tried to talk to Muhammad and Tareq, but the soldiers then took me outside and ordered me to sit on the ground outside the container. One of them blindfolded me. It was very hot outside. I asked him to bring me water, so I could wash my face. He brought me a bucket of water. They left me there for about an hour, handcuffed and blindfolded.
It was almost 7:30 P.M., time for iftar. I was very tired, hungry and thirsty. I also had some bruises in a bunch of places.
To protest the detention of ‘Awni, Muhammad and Tareq, ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh went and sat down in the middle of the road with his son Saleh (13) and daughter Marwah (15). They sat there to keep settlers’ cars from driving past. After about 15 minutes, a good number of soldiers arrived on the scene and an officer threatened to arrest ‘Imad if he did not move out of the road. He and his children had no choice but to move to the sidewalk. They waited there until about 7:30 P.M., when the jeep with ‘Awni, Muhammad and Tareq drove by. The continued to the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint, about 100 meters away, where the three young men were released.
Marwah Abu Shamsiyeh, 15, spoke about what happened in a testimony she gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bri on 12 May 2019:
I was at a friend’s house, when my sister Madlen called and told me soldiers had arrested my parents and brothers. I rushed home, and on the way, I saw my parents out on the street. They were shouting and they were surrounded by lots of soldiers and Border Police officers. My father told me the soldiers had arrested my brothers ‘Awni and Muhammad and told me and my brother Saleh to sit with him and block the street until they were released. We sat, and then a soldier came up to us and told us to get out of the road. We wouldn’t leave, and in the meantime, a military jeep came there to get my brothers. My father kept blocking the road, and then the soldiers started pulling and dragging him along the street. I chased them and tried to get them away from him.
Five Border Police officers were shoving me and my parents. While they were pushing me, a neighbor came and pulled me into her house for a few minutes. I saw them pushing her too. In the meantime, some neighbors gathered outside and so did some extremist settlers, including Baruch Marzel, who was taunting and mocking us.
My father phoned all the relevant officials in the Palestinian DCO and the Red Cross and asked them to intervene to protect us and get my brothers released. About an hour later, a military jeep arrived with ‘Awni and Muhammad inside. They took them to the Bab a-Zawiya checkpoint and released them there.
At first, I was very happy my brothers would be coming home to have iftar with us. I really missed them, but now I can’t stop thinking about what we went through: the soldiers’ assaults, the beatings, being dragged along the street, my mother’s hijab being pulled off and the settlers mocking her. I wish our father would find us another house, a safer place to live. This isn’t the first time settlers and soldiers attacked us.
This incident illustrates how fragile, exposed and unpredictable life has become for Palestinians who continue to live in the center of Hebron, near settlers. Israel enforces a regime of separation in this area which makes life unbearable for Palestinian residents, in the hopes that they will leave, ostensibly of their free will. As part of this regime, Israel has installed dozens of checkpoints and roadblocks which force Palestinian residents to take roundabout, hard to traverse routes to reach their destinations; it has shut down hundreds of businesses; and all the while security forces and settlers constantly harass and assault local residents with impunity. These conditions have driven thousands of Palestinians out of the area, and most of those who remain do so because they have no other choice.