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Settlers throwing stones at the Geith neighborhood across the fence. Photo by Nael Fakhuri, 11.5.21
From the field

Settlers stone Palestinian residents; soldiers escorting them arrest B’Tselem volunteer for no reason, abuse him and release him two days later

On 11 May 2021, at around 5:00 P.M., dozens of settlers, including women and children, attacked Palestinian residents of the Gheith neighborhood in central Hebron and threw stones at them through the fence that the army erected in order to limit Palestinian access to the main street . The residents threw stones back at the settlers. Soldiers ignored the settlers and hurled tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the residents.

During the attack, settlers also stoned neighborhood resident Nael Fakhuri, a volunteer with B’Tselem’s camera project who was passing by with his son (10) and a neighbor (18). Immediately afterwards, six Border Police officers jumped Fakhuri and arrested him. Fakhuri was transferred between three police stations, interrogated, beaten by soldiers while handcuffed and blindfolded, and released only two days later after paying NIS 4,000 (~1,220 USD).

In a testimony he gave B’Tselem field researcher Manal al-Ja’bari on 6 June 2021, Nael Fakhuri (45), a father of seven, recounted what happened that day:

I live with my wife and our seven children in the Gheith neighborhood, in front of the Bakery Checkpoint, which is 50 meters away from our home. I work in a pottery shop.

On 11 May 2021, I was off work for the Eid al-Fitr holiday and stayed home. At about 10:00 A.M., settlers started attacking neighborhoods that lie near the settlement of Kiryat Arba. I followed what was happening on websites and Facebook and assumed they’d get to our neighborhood.

At around 5:00 P.M., about two hours before the Eid al-Fitr dinner, I went outside to go to my family’s grocery store and heard residents screaming from some distance away. A lot of settlers of all ages, including women, came to the area of Checkpoint 160, which is about 200 meters south of our home. They attacked homes and residents close to the checkpoint. I saw the settlers and residents who were trying to defend their homes throwing stones at each other.

Then the settlers moved on to our neighborhood and started throwing stones at homes there. The residents threw stones back to try and drive them away. Soldiers who arrived intervened and hurled tear gas canisters and stun grenades at the residents.

When the settlers got close to our house, I was alone. But then my brother Faraj (48) joined me with other young guys from the neighborhood, and we all stood in the doorway of the building. The settlers threw stones at us from behind the fence that separates our house from the road, and tried to open the gate in the fence. We fastened the gate with iron wire but they managed to open it, and about 50 settlers came into the neighborhood. We had no choice but to throw stones at them to defend ourselves and drive them away. The soldiers fired stun grenades and tear gas canisters in our direction to disperse us.

Nael Fakhuri in hi pottery studio. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem, 19 June 2017
Nael Fakhuri in the pottery studio. Photo by Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem, 19 June 2017

About half an hour later, the settlers left the neighborhood and continued to throw stones at our homes from the street behind the fence. We kept on throwing stones from our side of the fence to drive them away. At some point they left, but at around 8:00 P.M. they came back and gathered behind the Bakery Checkpoint.

At that time, my son (10), the neighbors’ son (18) and I were on our way to pick up the things I’d bought earlier with a cart. I’d left them in front of the Bakery Checkpoint by the grocery store, because of the settlers’ attack. A plainclothes ISA officer came over to me with another person, who I think was also an intelligence agent. They checked my ID and let me go. When we got to the Bakery Checkpoint, the settlers attacked us, threw stones at us and spat at us. Then six Border Police officers jumped me and took me to the police station.

The officers said they just wanted to talk to me. They detained me for more than an hour at the police station and then drove me in a patrol car to the Kiryat Arba police station. I was held there, handcuffed and blindfolded, until 1:30 A.M. I was hungry and thirsty, because I hadn’t eaten or drunk since morning due to the Ramadan fast.

At around 1:30 A.M., I was taken into interrogation. The interrogator accused me of throwing stones and assaulting a police officer. I hadn’t seen or assaulted any officer. The interrogator said there were witnesses and that if I didn’t confess, he’d send me to the Etzion police station. When I refused, they took me in a patrol car to the Etzion station and sat me in the yard.

While I was sitting there, handcuffed and blindfolded, the soldiers beat me, kicked me and swore at me one after the other until 4:30 A.M. Then they put me in a room with three other detainees and left me there until 2:00 P.M. Then I was transferred to Ofer Prison.

At Ofer Prison, a doctor examined me and then they put me in a holding room where I was held until the morning of 13 May 2021, on a holiday. At midday, I was told there was a court hearing in my case. I attended it remotely and a lawyer represented me. The judge decided to release me on condition that I pay 4,000 shekels. I paid the fine and was released around midnight.

Relatives of another detainee who was released took me to the Qalandia Checkpoint, and from there I took a taxi to al-‘Eizariyah. My brother picked me up from there and took me to his house in southern Hebron at around 2:30 A.M.

In the morning, I went home. I was very sad that my wife and kids had spent the holiday like that, without me. My wife told me they hadn’t worn festive clothes and that she’d only served the guests coffee, without holiday sweets, because of the situation.

The sum of the fine – 4,000 shekels – is huge for a simple worker like me. My brother had to borrow money from relatives to pay it, and now I have to pay it back. I later found that five other young guys from the neighborhood had been arrested.