On Thursday, 25 June 2020, soldiers detained Walid Ghazal on his way to work in central Hebron and, for no apparent reason, ordered him at gunpoint to undress. Ghazal took his top shirt off, but the soldiers insisted he strip completely in public. After relatives intervened and other soldiers arrived, he was taken to a police station, where he was detained for three hours. This case is not an exception; it is part of the violent routine of physical and verbal abuse that Israeli security forces impose on Palestinians throughout the West Bank.
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.
A week after soldiers, Border Police officers and settlers harassed the Abu Shamsiyeh family, on 16 June 2019, ‘Imad Abu Shamsiyeh suffered a sunstroke. In the middle of the night, his wife called an ambulance for him but the Israeli military would not allow it into the neighborhood. After a lengthy delay, the EMT staff decided to evacuate Abu Shamsiyeh on foot, a task accomplished only after further argument with the soldiers. This case demonstrates contempt for the health of a patient in need of urgent medical care and clearly illustrates the extent to which Israel controls all aspects of Palestinians’ lives in Hebron. It shows how, for Palestinians, even the most commonplace tasks involve difficulties and uncertainty and, above all, no control over the situation.
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 Sun., 5 May 2019, two soldiers approached Palestinian cars parked near the closed gate the military had installed to keep cars from entering the Jaber neighborhood, Hebron. The soldiers demanded that the cars be moved, and one decided to strike the cars with the barrel of his gun. The soldiers threatened to damage the cars if their owners parked there again. Regardless of whether these actions were based on orders or they were an individual soldier’s initiative, the incident is part of the military’s abusive policy toward Palestinians in Hebron, which is why, again, no one will be held to account.
On 19 March 2019, after school had let out, brothers Yazan (9) and Tayyem (7) ran back to school crying. They were followed by armed soldiers, who burst into the school and tried to arrest them for allegedly throwing stones. The teachers extricated Tayyem, but the soldiers arrested Yazan and took him to a nearby checkpoint. They released him only an hour later, after his mother had arrived. This is not the first time Israeli forces have entered a school or illegally detained children below the age of criminal liability in the West Bank.
On 5 Dec., at school dismissal, Palestinian children threw stones at Border Police officers in Hebron. Four children were apprehended and dragged to a checkpoint. Three were held at there for about an hour, interrogated and released. A fourth, aged 13, was detained overnight and eventually abandoned at the entrance to another locale. Every aspect of this incident reflects the approach shared by all Israeli authorities that Palestinian minors are entitled to nothing - not even to the basic protections the law gives them as children.
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.