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From the field

Footage from Hebron: Israeli military enables 5-day settler attack

B’Tselem video footage indicates that for five days, from 6 through 10 October 2015, groups of young Israelis from the settlement of Kiryat Arba came every afternoon and evening to the fence separating the settlement from the Palestinian neighborhood of Wadi a-Nasarah in Hebron and threw stones and glass bottles at the houses by the fence. Settler attacks intensified after two stabbing attacks by Palestinians in Hebron: On the afternoon of 8 October 2015 a Palestinian stabbed a settler at the western entrance to Kiryat Arba, severely wounding him before fleeing the scene. Another attack took place in the same spot around noon on 9 October. A Border Police officer sustained slight injuries, the Palestinian perpetrator was shot to death.

On Thursday afternoon, 8 October, after the settler was stabbed, young Israelis from Kiryat Arba gathered by the fence and began to throw stones and glass bottles at nearby Palestinian houses, all the while swearing at the inhabitants and calling out racist slurs. They continued in this vein until after 4 A.M. Mai Da’na, a Palestinian B’Tselem camera volunteer who lives with her family in a building close to the fence, captured the attack on video camera. Israeli soldiers and police are seen to be present nearby much of the time, watching events and taking no action to stop the settlers from throwing stones.

Video 1  settlers throwing stones at Palestinian homes in the Wadi a-Nasarah neighborhood, Hebron, as a military vehicle drives by among them, and the soldiers make no attempt to stop them. Filmed by Mai Da’na at 1:40 A.M. on 9 Oct. 2015.

Video 2  settlers throwing stones at Palestinian homes in the Wadi a-Nasarah neighborhood, Hebron. Filmed by Mai Da’na at 04:01 A.M. on 9 Oct. 2015.

Settlers resumed throwing stones at Palestinian houses by the fence on Friday afternoon, 9 October, the presence of soldiers nearby notwithstanding.

Video 3 – settlers throwing stones at Palestinian homes in the Wadi a-Nasarah neighborhood, Hebron, while soldiers look on. Filmed by Manal al-Ja’bri, B’Tselem’s field researcher in the Hebron area, at 6:16 P.M. on 9 Oct. 2015.

The same afternoon – 9 October – many troops came to the area of settlement of Giv’at Ha’avot, after a Palestinian stabbed a Border Police officer near the entrance to the settlement of Kiryat Arba. B’Tselem camera volunteer Ayat al-Ja’bri, who lives nearby, captured what happened next on video camera. In the footage, settlers and soldiers are seen standing close to the al-Ja’bri home; the settlers throw stones at Palestinians from several dozen meters away, while the Palestinians throw stones at the settlers and the soldiers. The soldiers ignore the settlers’ conduct and fire tear-gas at the Palestinians.

Video 4 –
Palestinians and settlers throw stones at each other, while soldiers standing near the settlers fire tear-gas canisters at the Palestinians. Filmed by Ayat al-Ja’bri at 12:57 P.M. on 9 Oct. 2015.

B’Tselem inquiries indicate that at approximately 1:30 P.M., about half an hour after the confrontation began, settlers began moving closer to the al-Ja’bri home and throwing stones at it, in spite of the presence of soldiers and police officers. Several minutes later, young Palestinians standing on a hill nearby began throwing stones back at the settlers. At first, the soldiers and police looked on and did nothing to stop the stone-throwing. Only after a few minutes, when backup forces arrived, were the settlers removed from the area.

This latest installment in a longstanding campaign of violence by settlers in Hebron – which lasted five days and received military backing – reflects the ongoing reality of daily life in the city and serves as an extreme example of what life is like throughout the West Bank. In some instances, soldiers do fulfil their duty to try and protect Palestinians from attacks by settlers. Yet by and large, Israeli security forces routinely allow settlers to harm Palestinians or their property, often accompanying the attackers, providing backup and protecting them; in some cases, they even actively join the attack. Given this complex reality, any attempt to portray the military as a buffer between neighboring communities that live in conflict is divorced from reality. The power balance in the West Bank is asymmetrical and unbalanced. Security forces provide full backup for violence instigated by one party, the settlers, against the other party – the Palestinians.