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From the field

10 Dec. '08: Hebron: Willful abandonment by security forces

On 4 December, immediately after the settlement in Hebron's a-Ras neighborhood (“the House in Dispute”) was evicted, B'Tselem issued a public call to security forces to protect the Palestinian residents of the city, and Palestinians throughout the West Bank, from expected acts of revenge by settlers.

In the weeks that preceded the eviction, settlers attacked Palestinians and damaged Palestinian property daily in Hebron. Although these attacks were extensive and prolonged, Israel's security forces failed to prevent them. In one of the incidents that B'Tselem documented, on 30 November, about 50 settlers entered a Palestinian neighborhood at 2:00 A.M., accompanied by an army jeep. The settlers threw stones that shattered windowpanes of houses and of some 25 cars, and punctured the tires of the cars. They then threw stones at houses in the neighborhood and shattered windowpanes.

Despite B'Tselem's warning, and despite the high probability that attacks of this kind would occur, the security forces failed to properly protect the city's Palestinian residents also after the eviction, when settlers invaded Palestinian neighborhoods in the city, torched houses and cars, threw stones, shattered windowpanes, and damaged solar-heated water tanks, satellite dishes, and water containers.

A particularly severe attack occurred in Hebron's Wadi al-Hussein neighborhood, by the house of the al-Matariyeh and Abu Sa'ifan families. Jamal Abu-Sa'ifan, a participant in B'Tselem's camera distribution project, filmed the event. A settler fired at three members of the al-Matariyeh family from close range, wounding them. A second settler fired into the air and towards the photographer, trying also to grab the camera from him. A third settler fired into the air and towards the house. B'Tselem handed over the video to the police the same day. Two of the suspects surrendered themselves to the police two days later and have since been released.

The footage of the attack. Filmed by Jamal Abu Sa'ifan, 4 December 2008/>

Following the shooting, dozens of settlers attacked the houses of the two families and their neighbors. They threw stones at the houses, climbed onto the roofs and damaged solar-heated water tanks and satellite dishes, and set fires near the houses and on farmland.

Settlers attack the families' house after the shooting. Filmed by B'Tselem, 4 December 2008. />

B'Tselem field worker 'Issa 'Amro filmed fires started by settlers in Wadi al-Hussein, the same neighborhood where the shooting incident occurred.

At the same time, settlers also attacked Palestinians elsewhere in the West Bank. These attacks included stone throwing at houses and cars, destroying property, setting fires, and spraying graffiti on the walls of mosques.

Graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” and “Hebron” sprayed by settlers on a Palestinian ambulance in Dir Astiyeh, Salfit District, the central West Bank. Photo: Ra’aed Moqdi, B'Tselem, 4 December 2008.	Graffiti reading “Death to Arabs” and “Hebron” sprayed by settlers on a Palestinian ambulance in Dir Astiyeh, Salfit District, the central West Bank. Photo: Ra'aed Moqdi, B'Tselem, 4 December 2008.