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From the field

Separation not only on buses, but also on streets of Hebron

Update: Since the video footage was aired, Border Police officers at the checkpoint allow Palestinian pedestrians to walk on either side of the road.

Israeli security forces divided a road in the center of Hebron, separating it into a paved road for Jews and a narrow, rough passage for Palestinians

The separation and discrimination between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank does not involve public transport only. How to Build a Fence in Hebron, a new video published today by Israeli human rights NGO B’Tselem, features footage of Border Police officers stating that one side of a newly erected fence is for Jews, the other for Arabs.

The separation principle is an official policy of the Israeli military separating Jews and Moslems in the city of Hebron. The policy is implemented primarily through severe restrictions on Palestinian travel and movement in downtown Hebron, where most Israeli settlement outposts are located. Some of the main roads in the area are completely off limits to Palestinians, and many roads bar any and all Palestinian vehicles. Israel’s strict restrictions have made the lives of Palestinians in downtown Hebron intolerable, forcing many to leave their homes and jobs.

One of the roads prohibited to Palestinian vehicles runs through the neighborhood of a-Salaimeh and leads to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The road is about 70 meters long and has a checkpoint at either end: the Bakery Checkpoint at the northern end of the road and the Bench Checkpoint at its southern end. Until recently, Israeli security forces permitted Palestinian pedestrians and cyclists on the street. In order to transport supplies through the street, Palestinians were forced to use a horse-drawn wagon or a hand-cart. Settlers and Israeli civilians are permitted to walk and drive cars on the street.

On 23 September 2012 Israeli security forces laid out a chain-link fence, dividing the road lengthwise. On one side of the fence is a paved road and on the other, a narrow pedestrian passageway. Since the fence was erected, Israeli security forces have not allowed Palestinians to walk on the road. Instead they direct Palestinians to the narrow passageway, which is unpaved, rough and ends in a small staircase. The passage is completely impassible by wheelchair and is very difficult to navigate with a baby carriage, pushcart or bicycle. B’Tselem videoed the construction of the fence and of Border Police keeping Palestinians from going on the road. Residents described the new hardships they are facing as a result of the fence.

Musa Abu Hashhash and Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem field researchers, also tried to reach the wide, paved side of the street. However, because they are Palestinian, Border Policemen prevented them from doing so. The policemen told them explicitly that the paved side of the street is for Jews only.