Residents of the souther Hebron neighborhood of al-Harika have suffered incessant soldier and military-backed settler harassment ever since the settlement of Kiryat Arba was built next door in 1972. In five months this year, we documented five such attacks. These and other cases previously documented by B'Tselem illustrate how fragile, exposed and unpredictable life is in the neighborhood. The intolerable living conditions created by Israel’s policy drive Palestinians to abandon homes and businesses in the neighborhood.
A new B’Tselem report released today, Playing the Security Card: Israeli Policy in Hebron as a Means to Effect Forcible Transfer of Local Palestinians, demonstrates how Israel has been using security excuses to implement a policy that has made life unbearable for the Palestinian residents of Hebron’s city center (the Old City), in an effort to drive them from their homes. This policy relies on the extreme regime of separation Israel has been implementing in the city for the past 25 years – ever since the massacre of Palestinians carried out by Baruch Goldstein – so as to enable a small number of settlers to live in the heart of a crowded Palestinian city. This policy violates the prohibition against forcible transfer, which constitutes a war crime.
In June 2019, settlers vandalized Palestinian property in at least 10 West Bank villages, burning some 1,800 trees and acres of grain fields, uprooting some 700 seedlings and damaging at least 55 cars. This army-backed violence is routine, part of state policy aimed at reducing Palestinian farming and gradually transferring abandoned areas to settlers. As part of this policy, crimes go uninvestigated and criminals are unlikely to be punished. Settlers are well aware of this fact, as are Palestinians who remain defenseless.
On Fri. 10 May, Israeli soldiers detained two brothers - Muhammad (17) and ‘Awni (20) Abu Shamsiyeh - following an altercation between them and a settler who harassed them on their way home from grocery shopping. Their family lives in Tel Rumeidah, a neighborhood in the center of Hebron whose residents have been subjected to travel restrictions and harassed by security forces and settlers ever since a settlement bordering the neighborhood was established. This incident shows how untenable life has become for Palestinians who still live in the center of Hebron, where Israel imposes a policy of separation designed to drive out Palestinians, ostensibly of their own volition.
On Friday, 17 May 2019, settlers torched unfarmed fields in Burin and ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah. In both villages the settlers threw stones at the residents’ homes. In ‘Asirah al-Qibliyah, where the area is controlled by military watchtowers, a settler even fired shots in the air. Soldiers nearby did not arrest the attackers and prevented the Palestinians from approaching their burning land.
In recent months, shepherds from the Palestinian communities of al-Farisiyah in the northern Jordan Valley have reported an upsurge in the frequency and severity of attacks by settlers and soldiers when they go out to graze their flocks. These incidents are part of the policy Israel has been implementing in the Jordan Valley. Its goal is to take over land by various measures, including by making life unbearable for Palestinians. It includes coordinated attacks by soldiers and settlers and a comprehensive ban on the development of Palestinian communities.
B’Tselem’s investigation has found that in an incident reported by the media as an attempted stabbing at Huwarah on 3 April 2019, Muhammad ‘Abd al-Fatah had been throwing stones at Israeli cars driving along the road and was then shot by a settler who pulled over. As al-Fatah lay wounded on the ground, the settler, along with another settler who also pulled over, shot him again, killing him. Soldiers erased video footage of the incident.
On Sat. Jan. 26, 15-20 armed settlers attacked and fired at residents of al-Mughayir, killing Hamdi Na’asan, 38, and injuring nine others. Security forces were nearby the entire time and did nothing to prevent or stop the attack. This deadly attack, waged in the presence of security forces, is no isolated incident, but part of a policy backed up by the military and the government. The state - through the military and the settlers - works consistently and forcefully to usurp the land of as many Palestinians as possible and encourage them to leave their land "voluntarily."
On 13 Dec. 2018, a Palestinian opened fire near the settlement of Givat Assaf, killing two soldiers and seriously injuring another soldier and a woman. Following the incident, large numbers of settlers set out to attack Palestinians. These attacks were predictable, yet the security forces did nothing to prevent them. This behavior by the security forces was also predictable. Settler attacks on Palestinians, in the presence and under the protection of the security forces, have long since become routine throughout the West Bank. It is clear to Palestinians today that no-one will protect them and their property and that no-one will be held to account when they are attacked.
Israel’s regime of occupation is inextricably bound up in human rights violations. B’Tselem strives to end the occupation, as that is the only way forward to a future in which human rights, democracy, liberty and equality are ensured to all people, both Palestinian and Israeli, living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.