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.
On 18 Oct. 2019, soldiers unlawfully dragged Qusai al-Ja’ar, 10, from his home while he was helping his father clear building debris, and held his parents back with gunfire and teargas. They drove the boy, handcuffed and blindfolded, to a military post in a settlement and sat him in the yard. When his father arrived, they asked the son about stone-throwing. The treatment of this child is part of the daily routine of control and oppression Israel imposes on all Palestinians in the West Bank as part of its occupation regime.
On 9 Sept. 2019, an extended HCJ panel held that the Defence Regulations grant the state the power to hold bodies for negotiation. Israel is currently holding 52 such bodies. President Esther Hayut relied on a circuitous interpretation of the Regulations while treating international law almost as a technicality. Yet again, the justices proved willing to sanction almost any violation of Palestinians’ human rights – thereby not only failing to discharge their duties, but playing a pivotal role in legitimizing the entire occupation.
The police harassment against residents of al-‘Esawiyah we reported in July continues, though it has abated somewhat after the school year began. Over the summer, B’Tselem documented ten cases of police brutality against neighborhood residents, three of which are presented here in detail. This police harassment is an inseparable part of Israeli policy throughout East Jerusalem, which seeks to perpetuate a demographic majority for Jews in the city.
On 4 August 2019, Israeli soldiers stopped B’Tselem field researcher Nasser Nawaj’ah at a military checkpoint near the Palestinian village of Khirbet Susiya, the South Hebron Hills, when they saw he had B’Tselem reports in his car. One of the soldiers at the checkpoint claimed that they had to obtain confirmation that the reports do not constitute incitement material. About 10 minutes later, after the soldiers consulted with their superiors, Nawaj’ah was allowed to go.
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.
Since mid-June, as collective punishment, the police have been harassing residents of al-’Esawiyah over alleged stone. On 27 June 2019, when police harassed residents, young men threw stones at them, incl. one – Muhammad ‘Abeid, 21 – who shot firecrackers at them. A policeman shot a live round at ‘Abeid, hitting him in the chest. The police pursued residents who were taking ‘Abeid for medical attention, snatched him and took him to the hospital themselves, where he was pronounced dead. The police harassment of al-’Esawiyah residents, including ‘Abeid’s killing, is an inseparable part of Israel’s policy in East Jerusalem designed to secure a Jewish majority in the city.
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.
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.